So­ci­ety needs to act on in­ter­net safety

The Church of England - - FRONT PAGE -

IN­TER­NET SAFETY for chil­dren will only be in­creased by a ‘whole so­ci­ety re­sponse’, the au­thor of a new book on the sub­ject claims.

It’s not just for the govern­ment, who can only do so much, to act, ar­gues Dr Bex Lewis, in re­sponse to the com­ments made by the Coroner of the in­quiry into the death of Tal­lu­lah Wil­son.

Coroner Has­sel says the Coali­tion needs to do more to im­prove in­ter­net safety af­ter the 15-yearold’s sui­cide.

But Dr Lewis, who runs in­ter­net work­shops and has writ­ten her ad­vice for par­ents, teach­ers and youth lead­ers in Rais­ing Chil­dren in a Dig­i­tal Age: En­joy­ing the best, avoid­ing the worst, says it’s about teach­ing chil­dren to use the in­ter­net safely, while dis­cussing any neg­a­tive im­ages and sites they may stum­ble across.

“I don’t think people can sit back and ex­pect the govern­ment to do it all,” she said.

“Schools need to do some­thing, par­ents need to do some­thing, youth lead­ers need to do some­thing.”

The more con­fi­dent par­ents are with us­ing the in­ter­net, the more con­fi­dent their chil­dren are, re­search shows.

Un­less strong parental locks are set on com­put­ers, chil­dren who use Google to re­search in­no­cent things, like Big Ben, are be­ing

di­rected to porn sites.

Just as they would ask how their child got on at school, par­ents should be ask­ing what they have seen on the in­ter­net and whether any­thing has up­set them, so any neg­a­tive im­ages can be dis­cussed and ex­plained.

“You need to have these con­ver­sa­tions be­fore you have the sex ed­u­ca­tion con­ver­sa­tion,” she ad­vises. “In­tro­duce it early as part of your ev­ery­day con­ver­sa­tions.”

Dr Lewis’s book is based on the re­sults of a sur­vey she con­ducted with 120 par­ents, af­ter learn­ing the last book on this sub­ject was writ­ten in 2011, but a lot has changed since then.

“It’s like swim­ming: you wouldn’t chuck a child in a swim­ming pool and leave them to it, so why would you do it with the in­ter­net?”

This isn’t a par­ent­ing book, though, she prom­ises.

Rais­ing Chil­dren in a Dig­i­tal Age is out now. Dr Bex Lewis will be writ­ing a fea­ture for The Church of Eng­land News­pa­per in March to help youth lead­ers nav­i­gate the is­sue of in­ter­net safety.

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