max temp: 12°C

min temp: 8°C


Suffolk: Parents are failing in fight against online child abuse

09:30 05 February 2014

Parents in Suffolk are falling behind in the challenge to protect children from online abuse, it has been warned.

The intervention comes after a new report found one in four young people aged between 12 and 15 were victims of online abuse in the county in 2013 – an increase over the past two years.

But there was a fall in the number of youngsters who said their parents had taught them how to keep safe on the Internet.

Some 40% of children aged 10-11 said their parents had failed to teach them about online safety. For 14- to 15-year-olds, only one in three described their education of the topic as “very good”.

Overall, out of 1,685 youngsters aged between 10 and 18 surveyed, the level of adequate parental guidance over Internet safety dropped from 63% in 2011 to 58% last year.

The findings were revealed in Suffolk County Council’s (SCC) third-annual ‘Suffolk Cybersurvey’ study, unveiled yesterday at a major online safety conference at IP-City Centre in Bath Street, Ipswich.

Tink Palmer, founder and chief executive of the Marie Collins Foundation, said the results of the survey were “concerning but not surprising”.

She insisted parents must become better at noticing when their children start showing signs of abnormal behaviour – possible evidence of online abuse – and need to develop the confidence to intervene at a time of growing technologies.

“For parents and teachers – for all of us – we need to become much more active and start engaging with these children,” she said.

“I’m getting a bit tired of parents and teachers bashing the Government for not giving them the materials they think they need to protect children from online abuse.

“We must all start asking them questions instead. When their behaviour suddenly changes, whether in the classroom, or at a youth club or at home, we must ask the question why.”

The findings also revealed that 22% of young people were blackmailed or threatened over private photos or webcam images.

It said 70% of those young people who suffered online abuse reported it. However the bullying stopped in only 58% of those occasions, while it worsened in 10%.

Mrs Palmer argued the response to the needs of children who suffer online bullying – which she said sometimes includes older people grooming vulnerable youngsters – needs to be improved.

“Online abuse knocks the child’s self-confidence,” she added.

“They do not know where to go and they suddenly panic. They do not trust anyone and become inward; a feeling which could lead to self-harm.”

In the category of 12- to 13-year-olds, there was an 8% rise of cyber-bullying in the past two years, reaching 25% in 2013. For teenagers aged 14 to 15, it increased by 5% in 12 months also to 25% last year.

Dr Emma Bond, senior lecturer in childhood and youth studies at University Campus Suffolk, warned advances in technology meant many parents were failing to supervise the online and social media activities of their children.

Some 73% of young people in Suffolk now own a smartphone. Tablet ownership surged from 43% to 67% in a year.

“It is increasingly important to talk to children and parents about the risks online (because) recent technological advances have transformed how children access the internet and the social media they use,” she said.

“Teachers and parents are often unaware of the apps children are using, the sites they are visiting and who they are communicating with.

“The boundary between offline and online are blurred but the messages about the risks need to be clear.”

Around 100 people who work with vulnerable children heard at yesterday’s conference from industry-leading Internet safety and sexual exploitation experts.

They highlighted issues relating to the sexualisation of children, cyberbullying and cyber-addiction.

Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s deputy cabinet member for education, skills and young people, said the harm caused by online abuse, exploitation and grooming is a “serious concern”.

“That is why e-safety awareness training is regularly delivered in schools and to staff in organisations that work with vulnerable young people and adults,” he said.

“Professionals from across Suffolk who work with vulnerable children and adults came together in Ipswich (yesterday) to hear from industry-leading e-safety and sexual exploitation experts.

“This is part of our ongoing work to educate vulnerable people and protect them from harm.”


An anonymous donor has handed £20,000 to a Suffolk charity helping disabled youngsters and families affected by cancer in what was labelled “an overwhelming act of kindness”.

Education bosses in Suffolk have welcomed latest figures which mark the county’s highest school attendance record in the last decade.

Hopes of saving a supported housing scheme for vulnerable young people in Ipswich are still alive as bosses delay making a final decision on its future.

Work to rebuild the Princes Street/Queen Street area in Ipswich town centre is now centred on Giles’ Circus – but county chiefs have promised this will be clear by the time the Christmas lights go on next month.

More than three million day visitors to Ipswich helped to swell tourism business coffers by £250m last year, according to new statistics.

Councillors in Ipswich are set to find out how successful speed restrictions on the Orwell Bridge have been on Thursday, when the Highways Agency will present its findings.

This week, our iwitness theme was water - a broad topic that was open to interpretation.

It’s nearly Halloween and there is a variety of events across Suffolk this half term to keep your little monsters entertained no matter what their age.

Police have sent a stark warning to whoever stole a gun and explosives from a Suffolk farm.

A registered nurse is launching a community interest company to support people with Down’s syndrome and similar conditions after the experiences her son.

Most read

Most commented


Show Job Lists

Topic pages


Newsletter Sign Up

MyDate24 MyPhotos24