RGP reveal shocking results in online
children’s survey!

by Leo Olivero
The internet has proven to be a powerful comm-unication tool, which facilitates information sharing while offering a surplus of educational opportunities for all. It also reduces geographical distances, offers online games and various chat rooms where social networking can be eased.

However, the fact that the internet enables easy and private access to children in particular, has provided kids with easy access to offensive and/or age-inappropriate material. This has also increased the opportunity for the sexual exploitation of children through online chatting, with offenders being deceptive about their true intentions and identities.

It is of great concern that children are just a click away from illegal and harmful material such as pornography, violent material, paedophilia, chat rooms and sexual exploitation.

RGP Survey Reveal Shocking Results!

A recent survey conducted by the RGP’S Crime and Protective Services provided some shocking results that even the police found hard to conceal their own serious concerns.

One out of six children surveyed between the ages of 10 to 14 admitted having chattered with strangers online. The survey which included a total of 1000 young respondents also admitted concealing password to access social media sites which they kept away from the beady-eyes of their parents.

Other disturbing facts in the police study included kids cleverly concealing their on line behaviour by using online abbreviated language most parents would find hard understand.

The survey also highlighted young kids having the freedom to go online for hours on end with no supervision and one child admitting having pretended being 20 year old adult.

Just as alarming was the 300 odd children who said they sent photos and videos over the internet, even if it was sent to each other a highly dangerous practice especially for young kids.

Excellent Initiative But Where Are The Parents?

This was an excellent initiative by the police, who themselves launched their ‘Surf Safe’ campaign in February aimed at keeping internet users safe online while using social network sites, shopping or browsing. The campaign is accompanied by a booklet which contains information on shopping online, children using the internet, social networking sites, chat rooms, cyber bullying and a “dictionary” of various text speak or anagrams used online.

What hits you in the face about the survey is one important point - Where Are The Parents? And what about kids without parents or those one parent families with mum or dad out making a living all day and children left alone all day –

What are we doing about? I have no doubt this is the tipoff the iceberg!

New legislation and Internet Provider to Also Play Ball!

There is also no doubt, that appropriate legislation must be beefed-up considerable.

New laws requiring our one and only internet provider Gibtel to automatically block potentially harmful content and give adults the option to ‘opt-in’ upon providing age-verification is important. Such a system would provide a thorough safeguard against children being inadvertently exposed to harmful content, whilst maintaining personal choice for adults.

Some experts in the field believe that an ‘opt-in’ system is viewed as the most effective option by many organisations (in the UK) involved with child welfare, they say the opt-in system would be comprehensive, administratively simple and would not require parents to have technical knowledge in the same way that other filtering systems often do.

Parents Have The Main Responsibility

Of course parents have the overall main responsibility to protect their children’s online safety. One of the most important roles goes to the parents, although having said that are parents really aware of all the hidden dangers the internet hides? I don’t think so and neither do the police I’m sure.

It is a fact of life that these days, the internet is the pavement for our children…This is why it is such an important issue.

Like everything other harmful social problem that modern life throws at society it’s all about Awareness and Education. Most parents do not understand enough about this issue and they have to be made aware. On this point I was glad to learn the RGP are now targeting parents as well. I hope they also conduct a survey on mums and dads, grandparent’s and other carers - could be another interesting read?

Yet I still feel that mega-bucks companies like Gibtelcom who make millions of pounds each year also have a responsibility to support, and not necessarily undermine these important parental safeguards by doing very little or nothing at all.

In fact the Government should insist that our local service provider offer filtering for their existing customers, to block porn and adult material by default as part of a solution to protect all children before they end up in some moral wasteland somewhere horrid!

Children in Harm’s Way When Some Parents Have Sawdust For Brains

In this context Gibraltar is faced with harm to children, although not only here on the Rock but also elsewhere? For example, in parts of Asia, children are kidnapped bought and subjected to horrific abuse for the making of pornographic films. These pornographic films and others are easily accessible to our children. The fact that this happens is shocking, and the fact that it is so easy for our children to access these dreadful images is just as shocking.

However, where is the common sense, if there is any, when some parents open dangerous doors for children to walk through, by signing in their 10 or 11 year old children to facebook accounts using factious names and lying about their child’s true age, all to secure the must-have online account for their siblings – There is no common sense in these, a totally irresponsible action – Classic Case of Sawdust for Brains!

It is obvious the Government have the biggest part to play to make the internet safe for children to enjoy without being the subject to all the known evils prowling that corrupt part of cyber space.

Schools are also central to safeguarding children in this area. Teachers should be able to teach internet safety effectively in computing classes, but are teachers trained in addressing these sometimes difficult personal and social issues with young people, I’m sure this does not happen in a computing class.

All Round Planning Must Now Follow Survey Results

However it’s no good conducting these important exercises by way of conducting surveys, collating data, analysing the results and then not tackling the problem head-on… It’s no good leaving it all to the police, they can’t do it all on their own!

We have seen before regarding other serious social issues of concern like ‘Alcohol and Drug Abuse’ where the previous administration made a complete cock-up of implementing an effective strategy to tackle these also important and still current social problems after they also embarked on a similar survey on school children, but later had no idea what to do with the results!

Police Say They Will Now Target Parents And Other Guardians!

Chief Inspector Ullger leading the RGP Safe Surf Campaign informed Panorama that ‘Surf Safe’ was an initiative that started last summer with the publication of a campaign booklet; this was later followed with the awareness campaign to the children which included a very descriptive video of how the underworld works to lure children into their network. Another phase is the targeting guardians, parents and grandparents to bring them into the awareness field on this subject.

Mr Ullger said “Essentially we provided some 1000 children from middle schools and both comprehensive schools presentations about surf safe, particularly the dangers that young children are exposed to. ‘The kids were aged between 10 and 14 years and 1 in 6 children admitted talking to strangers, in one case a child admitted to have chatted online pretending to be 20 years old’. 48 of the children in middle schools admitted to having chatted with strangers whilst 93 kept passwords from parents. 323 children had regularly emailed pictures and videos of themselves over the internet. 454 out of 478 children from comprehensive schools openly use the internet to communicate, with 424 stating that they regularly sent pictures and videos of themselves. 116 admitted to chatting to strangers, whilst a staggering 336 kept their passwords from their parents”.

The RGP survey taken just over a month ago was a snap-shot of that particularly day, it exposed a very disturbing situation one involving the most vulnerable in society, there is reason to believe the situation in fact is even worse now than the survey suggests!

Not So Sure About the Internet Revolution?

The Internet has entered our lives in a very powerful way. This new present day technological wonder now takes up a great part of our daily lives. We find, meet and talk to friends and family, seek partners on the Internet, we shop online, we read, we play, we study, and we work. Although as far as I am concerned I feel the jury is still out, if the internet revolution is all good or bad for society in general.

Some experts predict that Internet use, web-surfing or whatever you do on-line is now as much of a threat to the family as alcohol or drug abuse…if that’s possible?

The time invested or as some people think - Wasted online with your PC, can often prevent or exclude other more important life like activities, such as in-person association with the rest of society and family or being less mobile or socially active or even withdrawn.

Do any of the latter symptoms remind you of anyone you know, well some of you might want to pop your head round your kid’s bedroom or where ever they may be, or even peak over their shoulders…You might be surprised what they are really getting up to these days!