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Survey reveals need for better monitoring of web-surfing kids

Published:Thursday | July 7, 2016 | 7:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Gordon Harrison

A social-media survey conducted by the Office of The Children's Advocate (OCA) found that 52.1 per cent of young people admitted to giving a wrong age so as to access a website or sign in for an online account.

In discussing the issue with The Gleaner, Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison said while the survey showed some positive signs, for the most, it pointed to the need for more guidance as to how teenagers navigate cyber-space.

"We found it popping up in certain areas, but especially when their curiosity was at an all-time high, they would manipulate the truth so that they can access certain websites," she said.

"We started from high school, which means participants would have been 12 all the way up to 19 (years old), but we found that most of our participants come from grades nine and 10, which is what put us in that 14, 15, 16 age bracket," she continued.

Among other areas of concern raised in the survey, which was conducted among teenagers in all three counties - Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey - was 48 per cent of them admitting that they received online messages that were inappropriate for their age; 45 per cent indicated that they had more friends on social media than in real life, in addition to 40 per cent of both males and females showing that their social media profile was private. However, another 40 per cent of males said their profile was public, in addition to 37.4 per cent females.

Harrison said believes more has to be done to encourage youths to desist from posting in-depth information about themselves as this posed serious security concerns.

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"They tend to post in real time, so they shared a lot about what it is that they were doing at a particular time, if they were going to a restaurant or if they were going out with friends," she told The Gleaner.

The children's advocate also shared in the manual that, "The Internet is a space which many child predators often utilise as a means of gaining access to potential child victims by exploiting their innocence."

Harrison was, however, encouraged by the number of participants who revealed that their parents were integral in what they do on social media. The survey said 26.1 strongly agreed that parents have access to, or sometimes ask to see, their postings on social media, while another 29.5 per cent agreed.

"That, for us, is an encouraging phenomenon because it shows that parents are not necessarily divorcing themselves from the activities of their children, particularly online. It is really in sync with one of the recommendations we have at the OCA, as to how parents need to insert themselves in this part of their children's life," she charged.