Protecting our children on the internet?
Plenary Wednesday 17 May 201716:35:13
Spoken Contribution – 16:35:13
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Thanks to the Conservatives for bringing today’s motion. As the motion states, there are a multitude of risks that children face using the internet these days, many of which have been outlined in the various contributions today, including cyber-bullying, addictions to gambling, sexual grooming, the encouragement of self-harming and also, as Llyr mentioned, the overall health problems that could develop as a result of young people simply spending too much time on the internet. So, all of these things do need to be taken into account, and as the contributors have generally agreed on today, we do need a joined-up approach. It probably does require a comprehensive response that would be timely, as the NSPCC have asked for. I’m aware that schools and local authorities have put measures in place in some areas, and I’m sure the Minister will give us more information and an update on that.
Of course, the problem with this issue is that it is developing quickly, and there are new threats emerging even as politicians like us debate these issues. So, it’s difficult to keep track of it all. And as Darren pointed out in his opening statement, often the kids themselves are more aware of what’s going on online than the adults, such as people in schools and parents.
The focus, almost inevitably from a Government, is likely to be on a contribution from schools. The problem is that although this is to be welcomed, it’s not always going to be successful because, of course, many young people aren’t really going to tend to listen at all times to what they’re told at school. So, some of these problems won’t emerge from discussions at school and, of course, they can be missed by parents. But what I was going to focus on slightly was the role of parents in this area. Often, if problems from internet use arise, then they are likely to be spotted by parents first, rather than schools. So, it is crucial that we do have parents who are encouraged to spend quality time with their kids, such as shared meal times, because they need to understand what their children’s normal behaviour is before they’re able to spot any changes in behaviour. And quite often, if problems are going on online, they will become apparent to parents from their interaction with their children, but of course they need to have that close relationship with their children to start with.
So, although we do need to be looking at this kind of comprehensive response that we’ve all been talking about today, we do also need to focus on the role of parents, and perhaps there is still a role in whatever response we come up with, or whatever response the Government suggests, for educating the parents as to the need for this quality time with their children. Thank you.