I watched a discussion this morning on a popular UK daytime show, aptly named "This Morning" in fact and it started with the headlines that a four year old had to be treated for an addiction to iPads and went on to discuss how some parents are allowing their children online at the age of only 3.
The discussion then went on to the findings of a survey carried out by netmums.com who revealed some rather disturbing trends amongst both parents and children. In total, 1100 parents took park in the survey, as did 825 children who ranged from age 7 to 16. Here's the results ...
Around a third of the children who took part in the survey (35%) agreed that children should spend no more than about an hour online each day and 72% agreed on no more than 2 hours, however 1 in 5 believed they spent more time online than in the real world, 11% admitted to gaining weight through spending more time online than physical activities and 1/3 say they find it harder to focus on "offline" activities like reading a book.
35% say they can feel angry or grumpy if they can't get online and 22% said they felt grumpy when they turned off their devices. Worryingly, half of the children surveyed said they go online because they can't think of anything else to do.
64% of the children surveyed admitted they have already had a negative experience onlilne, but only 22% of the parents were aware their children had such an experience!.
57% of the kids surveyed said they had accidentally accessed inappropriate material online, whilst 9% admitted to deliberately accessing such. Animal cruelty was the most commonly accessed material by accident.
24% had accessed eating disorder sites, 20% had looked at self-harm images, 6% violent porn, 18% soft porn, 11% suicide sites and child abuse images, and whilst 77% of those children surveys said they hadn't acted on anything they had seen, over 17% said they had thought about trying it!.
From those who did copy what they saw online, 6% restricted their eating, over 3% self harmed and over 3% considered or tried to comit suicide.
Now, there will always be the potential to rubbish statistics, but I personally know of parents who don't give a shit about what their kids do online, I've even lived beside a family who's 15 year old boy was arrested and questioned about material he was posting online (highly offensive and disturbing material basically) so I know this crap goes on, Facebook is by far the worst culprit for offensive material, discussion, images and bullying and whilst I could not stand by and watch the internet be "policed" as such, it's obvious our countries have to start tackling the modern day issue's which the net is enabling - our generation have experienced the web and technology as a new thing, our kids are experiencing it as a way of life, will our grandkids and their kids be so tuned in to accessing bad stuff on the net it will simply become the norm and what damage is this doing to our kids?. They are spending more and more of their time in front of computers or on mobiles than interacting in the real world.
Many parents are not interested in what their kids do online, some have never used the internet at home but have installed it for their kids, some have even removed the filters and restrictions safeguarding their kids because it's easier than having to double check a site when it flag's up as inappropriate.
I don't have all the answers, but if you are a parent and you believe your kids haven't accessed or seen anything inappropriate online, then you are either totally misguided, in denial or have a fail-safe internet filter which you administer regularly. If you do, you're most likely one of the very few, and if you don't, then we will have parents like you to thank for what the next generation evolves into through their antics online.