Online violence bothers children more than porn

4 Feb 2013
kids with laptop

UKCCIS report suggests child safety focus should extend beyond pornography to online violence

Young children are upset by violence and cyber-bullying when using the internet, according to a report, suggesting MPs' focus on banning online pornography is "too narrow".

The report by UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) - a body associated with the Department of Education - surveyed 24,000 children, asking what online content they found most upsetting.

"Upset is caused by a broad range of issues, very varied, and not all sexual content," said Andy Phippen, a professor of social responsibility at Plymouth University who worked on the survey, according to a report in the The Observer.

Upset is caused by a broad range of issues, very varied, and not all sexual content

The "Have Your Say" survey found children under the age of 11 used the internet most often to play games, do school work and talk to friends, and said they were upset by violence, such as cruelty to animals.

"I think, in this age group, violent images and upset from abusive nasty comments from their peers are the concerns," Phippen told the newspaper. "It is spoken about as 'so and so is so mean to me'. Cyber bullying – they don't use that term."

For older children and teenagers, pornography wasn't a primary concern, but the report said so-called "sexting" was a genuine problem.

Online filtering

The report follows efforts by MP Clare Perry to have adult content blocked from the UK internet, after a campaign that focused on pornography rather than other potentially unsuitable content. Those plans were blocked following a report that showed filtering wouldn't work.

Phippen pointed out that none of the issues raised would be easily managed via filtering, and called for more education. "There is no silver bullet to crack child safety online," Phippen said. "Government's obsession with filtering is okay, but too narrow."

The full report will be released Tuesday as part of Safer Internet Day.

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