Half of children won't tell parents if upset by online material, study finds

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Parents should get to grips with social media and help their children open up about their online activities, campaigners said
Parents should get to grips with social media and help their children open up about their online activities, campaigners said
3 September 2017 1:45PM

Around half of schoolchildren would not tell their parents if they were upset by something online, according to a study.

Children were more likely to turn to the police, their friends or another family member before talking to their mum or dad, according to research by online safety group Internet Matters.

Some 90% said they would turn to their parents if they saw something upsetting face to face.

The survey of 10,000 pupils in Britain, aged six to 18, found that 52% said they would not tell their parents if they were upset by something they had seen on the internet.

Around 90% of children said they would turn to their teacher if they had been upset face to face but only a third would turn to them if they had been upset by something online.

Internet Matters ambassador Dr Linda Papadopoulos urged parents to be more involved in their children's digital lives and get past the one-word answers which can hide problems.

She said: "A new school year can be an intense time for children, full of change and full of excitement.

"Beyond the day-to-day emotional weight of starting a new term with new friends and fresh challenges, they may also face extra pressure in their online world, which can make them anxious.

"They may feel under increased strain to have a persona online, keeping up with old and new friends, or simply trying to feel part of a group.

"As their dynamics change, it's important that parents encourage their children to open up about their online activities and find out if their children are anxious about anything, as well as learning about some of the issues they might be facing including cyber bullying, sexting or seeing inappropriate content."

It is estimated that children spend on average six hours a day online and that a quarter of those surveyed have lost sleep thinking about things on the internet.

Google searches for cyber bullying are on average eight times higher than normal during the back to school period from September to October, the research found.

Carolyn Bunting, of Internet Matters, said: "Many children will be getting their first taste of digital independence as they move up to big school, others might be getting new smartphones or tablets, or be mixing with new groups of friends both offline and online but parents need to make sure their kids' devices are set up safe and be made aware of what issues they need to talk to their children about when it comes to their online safety."