Belfast Telegraph

Let's better protect our kids online

By Neil Anderson

Online safety is an issue close to the hearts of parents across Northern Ireland - and it's easy to see why that is.

According to recent research, one in three of all internet users is a child and 92% of children and young people had accessed a social networking site by the age of 13.

Those are incredible figures - and they're growing all the time.

The internet is an invaluable resource for a child's development.

But with 11,000 calls to ChildLine last year focusing on online abuse, we need to do far more to ensure that it's a safe world for our children and young people.

That's why the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) has just launched innovative proposals to boost online safety through our Net Aware initiative, which is a simple guide for parents to social networking platforms.

The site is free and accessible at, and a free app for mobile devices can be found on googleplay or iTunes under 'NetAware'.

After next month's Assembly election we want the new Programme for Government (PfG) to include the e-safety strategy being developed by the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland, and to ensure a co-ordinated response from Government departments and agencies.

Crucially, we want to have an ongoing dialogue with the big social media providers which operate here engaged in what they're doing to keep our children safe on their platforms - whether that's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or any other emerging social media company.

For children, the online world is as immediate and real as the one offline. A wrong decision could be just one click away.

Let's do everything we can to make sure that doesn't happen and to ensure Northern Ireland leads the UK in fighting online abuse.

Neil Anderson is head of services at NSPCC Northern Ireland

Belfast Telegraph


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