SPECIAL REPORT: Study of 13,000 Northamptonshire children reveals dangers they face online but what is the solution?

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Parents in Northampton are being asked to be more accountable for their children’s online activity after a police survey revealed more than half of all five-year-olds are 
allowed unsupervised 
internet use.

The results of a new study by Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commission, which received responses from 13,000 children in the county, show that one in four primary school-age children have seen something online that has upset them.

The data has also revealed that 30 per cent of children under 16 were accessing material and content online for which they are underage including pornography and excessive violence.

Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Adam Simmonds said he was “worried” by the findings of the survey, which revealed that one child admitted to spending up to 16 hours a day unsupervised on the internet during the weekend.

Mr Simmonds said: “Parents need to play a bigger role in monitoring what their kids are doing online, they need to know what passwords their children use. They need to be quite intrusive in what their kids are viewing on the internet and not being concerned about doing that. Some kids are spending up to 16 hours a day, mainly playing online games.

“As a society we need a reality check as we are encouraging children to sit down in front of games that encourage users to slaughter and torture people. That is a real problem.”

The survey revealed that YouTube is the most popular internet site, being used by 87 per cent of secondary school pupils and 75 per cent of primary school-age children.

A total of 63 per cent of secondary school-age children used Facebook, while six per cent of primary school pupils admitted to using it, even though users of the social networking site are supposed to be at least 13-years-old.

One child who responded to the survey said he was on the internet “from the minute he gets home to the minute he goes to bed”.

The youngster said: “As soon as I get home I don’t get off it. I don’t get off it ‘cause it’s on my phone so it’s like every time except for when I’m eating I’m basically on it like all the time except sometimes I’m on it in school as well.

“I’m on my phone like 24/7 as soon as I get home, even when I’m eating, even when I’m cooking.”

Another respondent said her four-year-old cousin had an iPad Air2, an iPhone 6 and iPod and used Snapchat even though she “could not spell her name or write properly”.

Mr Simmonds said online safety must be given the same priority as road safety and has welcomed the Government’s commitment to increase education on internet safety in schools.

He said: “Our research shows that early intervention is needed to help educate primary schools children on the dangers and risks of accessing the internet. Teachers should be given all the help they need to achieve this.”

As part of a “10-point pledge” Mr Simmonds said he would like to see an ‘online safety week’ in the county and wanted to support a “big debate” between children, their parents and carers and professionals to help protect young people. He said there would also be more proactive work by ‘cyber’ Special Constables.

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Sexting is a ‘growing problem’ in county, results of survey shows

‘Sexting’ is a growing problem in Northamptonshire with up to 5,000 girls aged under 16 in the county believed to have received an unsolicited sexual image, a survey by the Northamptonshire Rape and Incest Crisis Centre has found.

Statistics presented by Debbie Galton, chair of the charity, at a conference at The Duston School on Monday, revealed that more than one in five young people aged 11 to 15 in Northamptonshire have been the recipients of sexually explicit content via text or social media.

A survey of 2,200 students also showed that half of 14 to 15-year-olds know someone who has had a naked picture of themselves forwarded to others or shared online without permission.

Ms Galton said : “We commissioned this research in the wake of the qualitative study carried out by the NSPCC in 2012, that study highlighted a potential rate of sexting amongst children and young people of 15-40 per cent nationally.

“Sexting is a growing problem among children and young people and it’s not going to go away any time soon,” she added.

The likelihood of viewing sexual content predictably increases with age, with over half of all Year 10 students saying they have viewed it.