e-Safety and user monitoring solutions for education and the enterprise

How are young people using the Internet?

Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

According to a report by Young Minds, the increasing availability of smartphones and tablets has made it really easy for children to access social media and the Internet in general. Half of all 9-16 year olds in Europe own a smartphone and many children can access the internet through their games console.

Furthermore, the report indicates that the vast majority of 9-16 year olds go online at least once a week, and the majority on a daily basis.

The report highlights some interesting statistics about young people’s internet use:

  • An estimated one in three of all Internet users in today’s world are below the age of 18.
  • Four in five of young adults, aged between 16-24 years, believe that digital technology plays a positive role in their relationships.
  • One in ten children and young people who have a diagnosable mental health condition go online to research more about their condition, and to reach out to their peers for mutual support.
  • One in five have shared personal information and photos with someone they only knew online.

The report gives useful insights into why young people use the Internet and, contrary to popular belief, the reasons go much deeper than a superficial need to be validated by peers or be ‘popular’. For young people today, forming bonds with people on the internet, and particularly social media platforms, has a lot to do with escaping family troubles or school pressures.

Traditionally, people sought a sense of belonging among their friends, family, neighbourhoods or communities. But in today’s fast paced world, we turn more often to social media and digital technology to find like-minded individuals or online communities that share our interests and beliefs. This is true for children and youngsters as well – they are much more likely to turn to the Internet to share difficult life experiences or get advice on sensitive issues.

According to an article in The Guardian, a recent Espad survey found that European teenagers use the internet on average 5.8 days a week and that girls (83%) use social media more regularly than boys (73%). Also, the research found that online gaming is far more prevalent among boys (39%) than among girls (7%).

One research study surveyed 12- to 17-year-old internet users, to examine teenage behaviour online, and found that the most popular online activities are seeking out information on search engines. The study also found that 80% went online to use social media, and seven out of ten use the internet to listen to music.

Other common online activities included – making friends, ‘hanging out’ with friends and sharing personal experiences. With the rise in popularity of Instagram and Snapchat, photos and videos are increasingly becoming the preferred way to connect with others online.

If you are worried about the kind of content your children are accessing online, read this blog for some helpful tips – How can I ensure my child accesses online content safely?

To learn more about e-Safety or safeguarding children join the conversation on Twitter or LinkedIn.

How can a school cope with children who are capable of hacking its systems?

Young man is typing on laptop and looking at screen
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

Computers and laptops occupy a desk in almost every child’s home today. Additionally, schools also have a dedicated time assigned exclusively to computers for research purposes.

Easy access to technology has brought many positives to education. But increasingly, schools need to be aware of computer-savvy children whose sophisticated skills could create challenges for their IT systems.

Hacking has its roots back in the 1950s and 1960s and was defined as a person who understands the systems and tries to break them, with good or ill intent, or simply to see if it can be done.

Could one of your pupils be a hacker?

The hacker personality is mainly characterised by “curiosity” about and “passion” for technology. Some other traits are: persistence, technical prowess and innovative ways of perceiving problems. Normally, such traits are considered ‘gifted’ by teachers and parents, which can make it difficult to detect that their teens are gradually dabbling in hi tech crime.

But, here is why this is considered a serious crime:

Even in the case of a teenager, if they ever break into systems (even if not for the purpose of stealing and using information online) they can be prosecuted under the same laws as a terrorist who hacks into systems.

A recent article published by Huffington Post revealed that one in ten (16 to 19-year-old teens) engage in some form of illegal cyber-activity. In fact, the article further reported that over a third of them would be impressed if a friend managed to replace a homepage of a major bank with a cartoon. The survey was conducted with a sample of 1,500 (16 to 19-year-old teens).

It further concluded that teens seek this sort of respect from peers, but many may be naïve about the consequences of their actions.

“I see kids of 11 and 12 sharing credit card details and asking for hacks,” said Chris Boyd, Director of Malware research at FaceTime Security.

Graham Robb, a board member of the Youth Justice Board for Ministry of Justice, UK explains the risks involved in hacking for young people.

“If they get a criminal record it stays with them. A Criminal Record Bureau check will throw that up and it could prevent access to jobs.”

The story of Ryan Cleary who was accused of a hacking attack

In 2011, 19 year-old Ryan Cleary made headlines when he was arrested for hacking the website of the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Cleary created a remotely controlled network of zombie computers known as “botnet.” He carried out distributed denial of service attacks using “botnet” that resulted in websites getting flooded with traffic to make them crash. Another similar attack he carried out was against the British Phonographic Industry’s website and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s website.

In 2013, Cleary made news again for all the wrong reasons – he was found with more than 170 indecent images of children, some as young as six months.

Are you concerned that your systems may be susceptible to hackers? Have you implemented e-safety measures in your school? Securus-software not only provides solutions but also partners with schools in safeguarding their pupils online. Follow us on Twitter to get daily updates on e-safety solutions.

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