A new national action plan to help protect children and young people online has been launched by the Scottish Government’s Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Mark McDonald. The plan is designed to help children and young people develop the skills they need to stay safe on the Internet and support parents and carers to be more aware of the potential risks that their children face online.
The Scottish Government will continue to work with education and health organisations, police and youth charities to deliver the actions in the plan. The Minister launched the strategy on a visit to NSPCC Scotland’s Childline base in Glasgow, where he met volunteers helping children deal with internet safety issues. “Children and young people are spending longer online than ever before,” he said. “Many own a tablet or smartphone and almost three quarters of 12-15 year olds now have a social media profile. While the internet and mobile technology have positively transformed our lives, I am concerned too many children and young people are being put at risk from online harm and abuse.
“We all have a responsibility to protect children and young people and this updated plan sets out a number of actions to improve internet safety. Its priorities include equipping children and young people themselves to stay safe online, supporting professionals, parents and carers and continuing to work with digital and social media providers to ensure children are not exposed to harm.”
Matt Forde, national head for NSPCC Scotland, added: “The preventative actions put forward in the Scottish Government’s plan are vital as the scale and nature of this type of offending requires strong measures to keep children safe online. Online safety is one of the major 21st century child protection challenges and we know the internet is used as a gateway by abusers to commit hundreds of offences against children each year.
“It’s every parent’s nightmare that their child will be targeted in this way. Education is key to keeping children safe online and Net Aware – the NSPCC’s guide to social media and gaming apps – provides advice and support for parents. Our campaign is aimed at encouraging parents to have open conversations with their children as this will enable them to make sure they protect themselves online.”
A growing phenomenon
Police Scotland have recorded a rise of 60% per cent in indecent communications recorded under the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 between adults and children aged under 13. The number of offences recorded rose from 103 in 2013-14 to 165 in 2014-15 (Source: NSPCC How Safe Are Our Children?) Childline has seen a 60% year on year increase in counselling sessions across the UK with children left worried after seeing intimate images online in 2015/16. The NSPCC’s round-the-clock helpline provided 844 counselling sessions about the issue to children from across the UK last year, up from 529 sessions in 2014/15. The NSPCC has a Net Aware guide to social media for parents and more information about online safety is available through its Share Aware Campaign.