Microsoft was at last week’s Child Internet Safety Summit – spreading a vital mantra that the Internet could be so much safer if people simply made use of the protections already available. But are parents listening or are the dangers simply evolving too fast?
Mike Anderiesz reports.
Microsoft at Child Internet Safety Summit - July 3rd, London
It feels like only yesterday we had the last Online Safety event, complete with the obligatory stream of alarming research statistics. However, as the 3rd Child Internet Safety Summit took place in London's Parliament Square last week, there was plenty more to consider (and yes, even more of those worrying stats!) Microsoft was there to provide its usual support both as exhibitors and speakers at an event where serious debate mixed with well-attended break-out sessions covering everything from Windows 10 to pioneering women in technology and the importance of Peer Education.
First up and playing to a packed auditorium were the panel sessions. Although Baroness Shields was unable to attend, the presence of speakers from the NSPCC, the Diana Award and Tech UK ensured a balanced and thought-provoking discussion. AVG's Tony Anscombe kicked things off with new research that showed 38% of 4-6 year olds have yet to be educated about online safety. While this may not seem overly concerning at first glance, with Ofcom claiming 11% of 3-4 year olds now have regular access to a tablet at home, combined with the 24% of parents who have no plans to educate them at all about online safety, the pre-school audience is clearly a growing concern that needs greater recognition before it begins to play out in tabloid headlines.
AVG's research also showed that 23% of parents believe teachers have a key part to play in any online safety conversation, which explains why these events are so keenly attended by teachers and other education professionals. Indeed, many of the most insightful comments came from the audience - highlighting, among other things, that it's not just the familiar dangers of explicit content, grooming and bullying we need to watch out for but increasing numbers of websites advocating suicide, anorexia and radicalism. Today's young people may have unprecedented freedom online, but they are also under unrelenting pressure from many different directions - all of which need to be considered in any sober discussion about what constitutes a healthy online identity.
Microsoft's two 'Safety in Numbers' break-out sessions were led by Becky Foreman and Eve Joseph, who focussed on the wealth of safety features already built-into Microsoft products that parents are either unaware of or simply ignore. There was also a sneak preview of some of the new safety features in Windows 10, although a fuller discussion of these will follow the worldwide launch on July 29th - so watch this space.
As always with these events, the depressing trends were well countered by a collective good will and determination to do something positive about them; not least amongst the exhibitors and volunteers who gave their time and expertise to get their vital safety messages across.
- Mike Anderiesz