Story today about sex offenders targeting children via the internet: your views please(41 Posts)
You may have seen coverage today of the report by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (warning: upsetting material about sexual abuse of children) giving an account of their investigation into the sexual blackmailing of children by abusers using the internet. In some cases, the abuse and blackmail has led to children taking their own lives.
We (at MNHQ) have been asked to comment on the story, and so we'd like to know what you think. How worried are you, day to day, about your children's online activity? Do you feel that they are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse when they're online? What steps do you take to protect them?
Do please let us know what you think. We've also got lots of advice on internet safety here if you'd like to take a look.
my daughter is savvy and streetwise and her online activity was being monitored by me. I discovered she was being groomed. he was very handsome, called Jamie, was 14 and lived in Norfolk. of course he wasn't at all and the police became involved.
she was furious with me for months while she still believed he was genuine.
there were up to 60 messages a day coming in from him and they were all lovely and clean and sweet. it was just the odd thing he said that made me suspicious. he was taking his time and she was only about 2 months into the so called relationship with him.
the internet is a confusing place for many of my generation but we must monitor our children properly.
When you read the autobiographies of respected figures like Jenni Murray from Woman's Hour you realise that their mother's hadn't a clue what they got up to, and that was way before the Internet! It isn't realistic to live a protected 'Enid Blyton' type life until 13yrs and then suddenly broach the subject.
And if all the other posts don't convince you that 13 is too late...one of the girls involved in my estranged bil's case was in single figures age wise and involved webcams
I agree, it is pretty scary to get it all at 13 yrs. I would much prefer a slow build up.
ok last waffle i promise BUT...
can you imagine our ancestors out on the savannah saying you know hun i don't think we should tell little giles about tigers till he's 13. you know we don't want to scare him or trouble him with dark realities and after all we're mostly always around and maybe his innocence is more important than his physical, material, real world safety?
tbf i also don't get the whole shelter them from the so called facts of life and periods and reproduction and the various functions of their own bodies. am often baffled by posts on here along the lines of, 'what do i tell 10yo ds about why his willy stands up in the morning' or 'dd found a tampon and asked what it was what should i say'.
so i may be weird and way off track of the norm because i really believe there are very positive, simple ways of being honest and real without being cruel or destroying childhood dreams and i am baffled by the idea of homes where open conversation and questions and.... LIFE don't take place.
tbh it's a huge ongoing process of acknowledging that the world has it's downsides, people can be unreliable and sometimes outright bad or dangerous and whilst we want to be nice, kind, polite etc we also need to have boundaries and a good antennae for danger that we're unafraid to observe and know the importance of.
that's not a 'conversation' that's a... commitment to parent your children for this world rather than some romantic idyll that you'd like to believe in. it's about producing safe, confident, realistic human beings.
i confess for me the whole 'shelter them, protect them, pretend everything is pink and sparkly and perfect and childhood is a separate planet to reality' seems like neglect to me.
the thing is it's not just about when the conversation is a matter of urgency or real life risk relevant that's the issue - it is whether you've cultivated a conversation over years and years - whether you've cultivated a climate of open discussion - whether you've grown the conversation.
there's no shelter till age x and then expect to be able to have conversations about serious stuff that have an effect. if you are behind what they're actually learning you will be behind their credibility itms - as in by leaving it so late or not engaging in a progressive conversation about reality, sex, risk, real life etc etc etc from early on you cease to be the person/source/resource that they'd come to.
if you imagine consulting a newspaper or website as a credible source of information and guidance how many times would it need to be out of date or mollycoddling you or not telling the truth or engaging with where you're at before you'd write it off as unreliable and/or a bit thick or deliberately misleading?
i don't see how you can say this is the age for conversation x - surely your children tell you when the time is if you don't preempt that and lead the way? it's not a one off later on talk about 'internet safety' it's a constant, open, ongoing conversation about life and how to be ok and how to be happy and how to cope with complexity and risk and boundaries etc etc.
i don't get how you can see it as a discrete answer to a discrete issue at a discrete point in time.
If she is Home Educated then I expect you can monitor at all times.
I still think that it is a mistake, if ever she does get into a situation that you can't foresee she is going to be in a mess because instead of slowly giving her the tools to risk assess you are doing it all for her.
It also depends upon how happy she is with that degree of control, those with very strict parents can generally find ways, if they really want to.
We do not have that many internet enabled devices for dd to access.
She has a lap top and is monitored all the time.
her phone is an old brick and we observe her using this, no internet.
She can't access anybody elses devices as they are password only.
Plus, she is too busy to want to bother atm.
I'm sure this will change as she gets older though as it did with her dbs
My dd is with us most of the time, there is no internet access at her activities and dc can't have technology there unless in their bags.
Her friends parents also supervise internet access at all times.
She doesn't go to school, so no problem there.
I think its up to parents when they think its appropriate. I don't want my dd to have to think about this until its applicable and when it is of course I will teach her safety. I think this will be around age 13.
I agree the "I'm going to leave it till they're 13" or "They're not going to have an internet enabled device so I don't need to worry about it" is pretty naive, but I have the same opinion of a lot of people's view on sex education ("oh they should stay innocent for as long as possible, they don't need to know these things").
If I count how many internet enabled devices we have in the house it would total 8. Eight!!! Not one family computer that is in the kitchen and monitored all the time. So accepting that I can't monitor everything they do when they're doing it, I have to educate them and do my best to know what they're doing. Sometimes harmless games can be risky ... DD had an app which was pretty much an online version of pictionary. Good fun. You could either play with friends via facebook (she's 10 and doesn't have a facebook account) or just with anonymous people online. As I realised this, I played it to see what risks there were. Lots. Someone drew a stick picture of a woman and a big tongue with an arrow pointing to what they called "vajj" (ffs). This was to depict the word "lick". You can also write notes to the other person. I deleted the app and explained why but DD was quite uppity about the fact I'd done so. If she'd actually formed a relationship with someone on there, it would have been very different. She thought I was being totally over the top.
It's a really hard one ... exposure to strangers is so easy. But burying your head in the sand and thinking you've got it all covered isn't the way forward.
IME the parents priding themselves on their excellent relationships with their child(ren) are often the ones whose child is sending or requesting photos that shouldn't be transmitted. Many young people go through a phase of doing this and it was starting at 11, widespread by 13 and may be even younger now.
I really have no idea how you stop this. Reading to them, or making them read, the stories of what has happened to some young people who do this may help a little but there's always the "it's just between us" without thought of what happens when they split up. We didn't allow a camera phone or webcam until they were old enough to understand the risks but that's virtually impossible now. You can monitor what they do and at least catch them if they are foolish but the mumsnet culture is against "spying" on your teen and you won't protect them without doing so.
Perhaps the best we can hope for is to educate children that when these photos get out it is foolish but not the end of the world and that the people who should be ashamed are those who give them a wider audience. This isn't always young men, they can have girls sending them images they don't want. Both sexes should be educated not to send such photos and to delete any they receive.
Incidentally I've just tried to look at the mumsnet guidance to see if it helps and it didn't really get me anywhere.
It amazes me that people are so worried about their child playing out with other children and yet they feel safe with them on a computer at home where the danger is really much greater.
You need to talk to them from an early age about the dangers. I think that morethanpotatoprints is quite wrong and you can't just leave it until 13 years. Unless they are with you all the time you can't know what they might be doing at a friend's house. You can do it in a non frightening way, it is all anonymous so unless they start giving details they are safe.
Have the computer in a shared space, check the history, make it plain that a cleared history will mean not going on the computer. Make sure they realise that people are not always who they say they are and that they never give personal information or pictures.
The most important thing, especially for an older child, is to say that if they do get in a mess there is nothing so bad that they can't tell you.
SwallowedAFly has a sensible post and I would say that her sister is typical, paranoid about the real life skills needed to go shopping with friends but incredibly blasé about technology.
Communication is the key, your children knowing they can talk to you, even if they have done something stupid like send a compromising photo.
You need to start young and certainly by 9 years old. I was a very innocent, well behaved child, but I certainly did things that my mother didn't know about! It is never 'simples' and that mindset shows the dangers.
wow that's the crudest form of spam i've seen in quite a while. would have thought mn was bot proof?
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I can see why you would be worried about your niece too. your dsis sounds a bit like me, but I haven't given dd the lap top, I phone, pad, or anything else. Nor am I going to.
She has internet access and she is supervised at all times, although allowed to research and play to her hearts content without interference, unless she asks.
I think many parents are having to have these talks with children too young these days as like your sister many feel they have to keep up with the jones's or peer pressure.
I am not daft though, I know there will come a time when we have to discuss these things, I just don't think it is necessary at primary age unless you have bought into gadgetry.
Perhaps speak to her if you can, maybe offer to give your niece some tips on safety, would she go for this?
should say i was genuinely shocked about the school's lack of action on the photos. been a while since i worked in schools and i guess i was naively thinking they'd have moved on in the face of all the reports and research into sexual harassment and violence in schools of recent years.
though this is a religious (aka parent selective) school that rests on the laurels of having 'good' (re: middle classed and conforming to a religious communties outward values) parents and hoping to not deal with much of the real world.
yeah that's done (conversations). recently she's also witnessed my sister behave awfully to me and seen that it's not 'just her' who gets the unreasonable, nasty streak come here way so i think that has helped ironically.
the boy faced no consequences and the school felt calling my sister was their responsibility dealt with.
it stuns me how naive some schools are and how utterly unwilling they are to face problems in their culture and from my experience when teaching i know they totally ignore the legal rights of kids when it comes to reporting criminal behaviour. re: assault that imo should automatically result in the police being called and criminal proceedings gets swept under the carpet as kid stuff or such. the distinction about minors should come from prosecution decisions NOT imo from schools deciding not to bother to report stuff.
That is shocking on the school's part. He faced no consequence, then? There was a case in America that disgusted me. A 14 year old girl sent her bf a nude picture of herself and as a result is facing charges of child pornography. That is shocking. This young girl faces being known as a nonce for sending pictures of herself to her boyfriend. I thought it was the children who were supposed to be safeguarded from this? Not punished for it. But yeah, just be like a best friend to your neice. If you can get her to keep it from your sis, maybe talk about some of your exploits in a bid to get her to open up about hers. Explain to her what guys are like, and how what the boy from church did is pretty common for boys, and that if she ever needs a friend to talk to about anything, you're there for her
I think people just need to be open and honest with their kids about all things sexual. Nobody feels comfortable talking sex with their kids, but so long as they know they can talk to their parents regarding any and all sexual activity. That way, no potential blackmailer will have a handle, because they will just explain to you what is happening. If you're open an honest with them, explain that nothing they ever do will stop you from loving them and that you will never, ever judge them, it robs these predators of their handle
i'm not frightened for my own child (he's young for one thing and even as he gets older my attitudes and experiences and line of work will mean i'm 'on the ball' and unafraid to tackle and discuss things frankly) i am more worried about my niece.
my sister is a bury her head in the sand type when it comes to modern technology - overly controlling about where her children go, how they travel, how much freedom of thought/expression/movement etc they have in real life and ridiculously flippant about online life and has given them ipods, iphones, laptops etc from a really young age in keeping up with the jones' type fashion.
this is the worst combination imo as it deprives children of controlled experiences of independence and street savvy etc whilst leaving them hungry for self expression and freedom and vulnerable to anyone who knows how to prey on that.
there is a weird scenario now where parents do this - controlling the physical lives of their youngsters to the point of suffocation and yet letting them have complete freedom with technology. it's the myth i guess of danger being 'out there' on the street and it's all safe and good so long as you know where they are (shut in their bedrooms with internet access allowing the whole world and all it's quirks access to your home).
my sister is also ridiculously narrow minded and dismissive of genuinely conversation with her children (particularly my niece) which is, imo, dangerously isolating. all i can do is remain open and willing to listen and keep talking to her and hope if she got into trouble she'd be able to talk to me. she's already had some disaster of naively sending a photo of herself in her bra to a guy she knows from church without thinking much of it or the implications and i hope she's learnt from what happened there (re: predictably the photos got around, school found out etc but shockingly the school told her off rather than addressing the fact the boy was effectively spreading child pornography in the eyes of the law).
it stuns me how naive some parents are and that so many are still actually willfully ignorant about the reality of their children's lives because they don't want to deal with the messy or awkward.
many kids are just as 'on their own' and out of their depth there as we were as kids.
Edam - I too wish that I knew what could be done.
what do you think they can and should be doing, Alison? Much of this stuff is hosted abroad so there's little our government can do. There are probably things they can do, but I don't know what.
My children are in their early twenties and so this isn't really an issue for me at the moment - HOWEVER, as I listen to the radio and watch the news, it seems to me that almost every week there is a distressing news article about internet porn and children. Whilst acknowledging that teaching your children about internet safety and personal safety is extremely important, I do really really wonder about the society that we are living in - there is an ever present undercurrent of depravity/repressed sexuality/deviant sexuality and as far as I can see, the government is paying little more than lip service to doing anything about it.
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