Women’s Week: Parents urged to talk to daughters about digital life and potential risks


Emma Bond. Picture: UNIVERSITY OF SUFFOLK - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk professor has urged parents to have frequent, honest conversations with girls about their online activity in order to protect them from potential risks.

While the internet can foster positive experiences, Emma Bond says it also poses dangers for young female users, which vary from grooming and sexual exploitation to bullying.

Prof Bond, an expert in online safeguarding at the University of Suffolk, said: “Research suggests that girls face different risks online and are more likely to be affected differently than boys in relation to certain risks. For example, they are more likely to be sent a nude image and more likely to be asked for one. Girls can feel very pressured by this as they feel that if they do send an image they’ll be labelled as a slut but if they don’t they’ll be labelled a prude.”

Pornography has also had an impact on sexual exceptions, norms and body image for teenage girls, Prof Bond added.

Prof Bond said girls would be more likely to share concerns with parents about their digital life if they have taken a genuine interest in what they are doing online.

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She added: “It’s also really important to ensure that they have a strong, positive sense of self worth that’s not just based on social media and how many likes something they have posted has received.”

Figures obtained by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) show the internet was used as a gateway by offenders to commit 46 sex crimes against children in Suffolk in the last two years.

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Colin Peak, NSPCC regional head of service for the East of England, said: “When children reach secondary school social media plays a much bigger role in their social life and many girls in particular have raised concerns about cyberbullying, online grooming, and taking part in online sexual activity. Parents need to ensure they are taking the time to understand their son’s or daughter’s life online and talk to them about the pressures and challenges they might face.”

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, has recently published a report, named Life In Likes, calling for children to be offered more support to cope with the emotional demands of social media as they move from primary to secondary school.

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