Story today about sex offenders targeting children via the internet: your views please

(41 Posts)
RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 20-Sep-13 13:30:43

Hello

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.

Thanks,
MNHQ

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.

clearly not.

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.

morethanpotatoprints Sun 22-Sep-13 19:01:18

Swallowed

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?

KarenRChenard Mon 23-Sep-13 01:25:21

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KarenRChenard Mon 23-Sep-13 01:33:47

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SatinSandals Mon 23-Sep-13 07:44:03

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.

alreadytaken Mon 23-Sep-13 10:19:12

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.

wishingchair Mon 23-Sep-13 11:45:02

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.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 23-Sep-13 13:49:29

Satin.

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.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 23-Sep-13 13:53:29

Wishing chair.
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

SatinSandals Mon 23-Sep-13 14:01:09

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.

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.

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.

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.

SatinSandals Mon 23-Sep-13 18:40:56

I agree, it is pretty scary to get it all at 13 yrs. I would much prefer a slow build up.

feedthegoat Mon 23-Sep-13 19:09:28

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 sadsadsad

SatinSandals Mon 23-Sep-13 20:42:07

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.

Gymbob Sat 18-Jan-14 13:40:52

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.

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