British kids' awareness of Internet dangers has increased

Sixty percent of children now say that they would not give out their contact details online, but child protection experts remain sceptical

British children are becoming increasingly more streetwise on the Internet, according to a new survey by pollster NOP, but child protection experts have warned that children are still unaware of the sophisticated tactics that paedophiles use to lure personal information out of them.

The survey found that 60 percent of seven to 16 year olds would not give out their email address or home address on the Internet, which is a 20 percent increase since November. Nigel Williams, director of Childnet International, agrees that an increase in publicity about the dangers of Internet chat has made children more reluctant to give out their personal information over the Web, but said that this is not an excuse to become complacent about the issue.

"Kids may believe that they will play safe on the Internet and not give out information about themselves to someone that they don't know, but a paedophile will deliberately lead a child through a careful set of steps that gradually lures them into giving out their personal details," Williams said.

Of those who claimed that they would not divulge their contact details, 42 percent said it was because their parents had told them not to do so. But according to Williams, the challenge that remains is understanding where children draw the line in deciding what activities are safe on the Internet. It is quite feasible that once a child has been corresponding with someone by instant messenger for several weeks, they may no longer consider that person a stranger, and let their guard down.

The NOP survey also addressed the issue of harmful content on the Internet, and revealed that one in ten children polled have seen something upsetting or embarrassing on the Web.

Despite this, the study found filters to be more readily available on school computers, in order to limit the amount of unsuitable material that pupils can access on the Web. Over half of young Internet users said that they had heard of filtering software, which rises to 72 percent amongst more experienced Internet users. 56 percent of students who go online at school also said that filters are used on school PCs. But only 23 percent of young people going online at home say filtering software is installed there.

See also: ZDNet UK's Net Crime News Section.

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