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Staying safe on line over the summer holidays

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The summer holidays are now here and as much as that means water fights and trips to the park, the holidays also mean more screen time for kids and teenagers. What do parents need to know to help their kids navigate the digital world safely?

Internet Matters have pulled together some resources that parents, carers and grandparents may find of use as they help children build their online safety confidence. For the first we are publishing in this series, see the article below:

Peer pressure and social media

It is clear that children and young people spend a considerable amount of time on social media platforms and from quite an early age. Ofcom research published in 2022* found that 24% of three- and four-year-olds have their own social media profiles. This rises to 60% of the eight- to eleven-year-olds. Most of the social media platforms that Ofcom found these children using require a user to be at least 13-years-old to use the platform.

Another piece of research from Ofcom** found that some parents facilitate the access to these platforms. For instance, 30% of eight- to twelve-year-olds state they set up their profile on TikTok with some help from their parents/guardians while 12% state that their parent/guardian set it up for them.

Once using these platforms, which are essentially designed for adults, children can be exposed to challenging content, including scams. Some are easy to spot – with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors — but some are becoming increasingly sophisticated and hard to identify. These scams often relate to current issues such as the energy crisis or the conflict in Ukraine.

Common scams

Some of the scams particularly affecting children and young people are around some of the games they play. Scams like these will offer amazing deals or levels of access to content that should cost money. Additionally, they will often include logos and branding aimed at convincing a user that it is genuine.

Clicking on links from such social media posts or from in-game chats will either download malware or a virus to their device (including phones which are not immune from this type of thing). They will then send your child’s personal data to a third party site and will sometimes re-share the scam with friends or contacts to give it more credence.

If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Children and young people (and their parents) should understand that it’s never a good idea to click on a link in a social media post or in an email. Instead, go to the website yourself; login to see if the deal or the urgent message asking you to verify your account details is genuine!

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