Report reveals rise in cyber-bullying in Suffolk, and children aged 10 ‘sexting’

File photo dated 06/07/11 of a young person using a laptop. Photo credit: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

File photo dated 06/07/11 of a young person using a laptop. Photo credit: Dave Thompson/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A new report has revealed a significant rise in cyber-bullying and access to inappropriate websites by children in Suffolk.

However, despite the figures, the head of children’s services in the county believes great advances have been made in making children more aware of the dangers of the internet.

Around 19% of 10 to 15-year-olds have faced online abuse in the last year, according to the new Suffolk Cyber Survey, while children as young as 10 admitted they had been involved in “sexting”.

Smartphone use, which allows children to access websites, continues to soar in Suffolk – 83% of the 2,988 10 to 15-year-olds surveyed owned one.

And cyber-bullying continues to rise among 14 to 15-year-olds – 29% have experienced it, up from 25% last year.

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For 10-11 year olds, 19% have experienced it.

The survey, conducted by e-Safer Suffolk, said: “It is noteworthy and worrying how many of them (14 and 15-year-olds) are visiting websites that encourage anorexia and self-harm, or even suicide. Professional assistance should be sought on how best to address this trend.”

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Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said the survey reflects the “world we live in,” but maintained the council were doing all they could to educate on internet safety.

He said this education was helping to reduce incidences of cyber-bullying, or youngsters visiting inappropriate websites.

Mr Jones added: “The education in schools regarding e-safety has improved greatly.

“We have launched the e-safety ambassadors scheme, where young people can educate their contemporaries.

“That message comes better from people their own age than people older than them.” According to the report, children’s time online is not limited by their parents. Nearly 40% of 14 and 15-year-olds spend more than five hours a day on the internet.

Mr Jones said most students were internet savvy, but he did not underestimate the dangers of the online world. He added that older people are also affected by the dangers of the internet, including online fraud.

“You can’t ban it. The genie is out of the bottle, it’ll never be put back,” he said.

“We need to make sure children are aware of the negatives.

“Education needs to be started at primary school. As the results show, some of the 10-year-olds are affected by it.”

Mr Jones said it may be difficult for parents to monitor what their children get up to online.

He said: “You don’t know what they are doing in their bedroom. You don’t know what they are doing with their iPhone once the lights are out under the bedsheets.

“You can’t stop that but you have to educate them on the dangers

“In an ideal world children should live in an environment where they can have open conversations and talk about the dangers.

“We are in an age where children are more internet savvy than their parents.”

Mr Jones also thought the fast changing nature of the internet probably does make children’s online usage more difficult to police, and that children need to be educated on the plus points.

“The new thing on the block and it will spread around the class and playground like wildfire. Things can go viral within minutes.

“Children and students need to be educated on all the plus points.

“They need to be aware of the dangers and most of them are sensible enough to react accordingly.

“You can’t cover everything but if you give students the tools to make their own decisions

“The wealth of knowledge and information on the internet is incredible. Keeping in touch with people all over the world is so easy to do and its a cost effective way of doing it.

“It’s here and it’s here to stay so lets use the benefits and minimise the downsides.”

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