The future of children’s online worlds


We’ve recently been thinking about children’s online digital safety, having read a report published by the NSPCC (2018) last week. It’s written by Tanya Byron, and considers the progress that’s been made to ensure children’s safety online since 2008. Back in 2008 a report by Byron was published, who had been commissioned by the then-Labour government to write a review about children’s digital worlds and make recommendations about what was necessary to minimise digital media risks. In particular, she looked at children’s Internet use and their engagement with video games.

Overall the review made 38 recommendations. One advised that industry worked to improve parents’ knowledge of parental controls and restrictions on video games. This came in light of research, for example, that has identified a link between violent video games and aggressive behaviour in children. Yet the review didn’t advocate that children should be prevented from playing video games – in fact another recommendation suggested that the government work with the education sector and industry to identify what educational benefits playing video games might offer to children. This is supported by evidence that these games can foster children’s development and learning.

So, what’s happened in the 10 years since Byron’s review? Unfortunately, in her most recent report Byron states that she doesn’t believe that the recommendation to improve parental controls has been adequately implemented. She isn’t able to find evidence that the government has sought to bring together industry and the education sector to look at learning opportunities, either. However, it is positive that it is now statutory for video games to have age ratings, another of her suggestions. Overall, of the 34 recommendations that remain relevant, just 16 were fully implemented. This paints a concerning picture about the extent to which children are able to stay safe in their digital worlds.

It’s important to remember in 2008 children’s digital lives looked very different from that of today. Thus, what may have been pressing issues then could now be superseded by the need to eliminate new risks, owing to changing attitudes and uses of digital media. Can you think of any areas of online concern that have increased in the last ten years? For instance, Byron herself notes that “in 2008, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp did not exist”. Yet in an earlier blog post we cited a report published by Ofcom (2017) that found that 23% of 8 to 11 year olds have a social media profile. This is despite the fact that Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat all require users to be at least 13 years old. As another example, the NSPCC (2017) state that between 2009 and 2017 the rise in reporting online abuse means there was “a 298 per cent increase in the number of police-recorded indecent image offences in the UK”. The online digital world is constantly changing, which means those advocating for young children need to be very proactive in ensuring that those children have the knowledge, means and support to keep themselves safe.

What do you think? What are the most pressing risks to children in relation to their online lives? And what recommendations would you make to the government, or to parents, practitioners or children about what is necessary to minimise these risks?

13 thoughts on “The future of children’s online worlds

  1. Holly

    I find the use of social media by children the most concerning- when you consider it is as addictive as gambling and drinking – why on earth do young children have access to it? I wish there was a universal understanding of the damaging effects social media has on the mind and that children aren’t equipped to deal with it . It seems they are just thrown in at the deep end with littlr guidance or psychological support regarding the online world.


  2. Bryony

    Digital life introduce to the children is very active in todays life, everything in life is based around media. Sometimes the ideaology of media and how much time children spend on it can be blown out of proportion. Whats wrong with children watching television? There is a mixed opinion about if we enforce to many rules and regulation on to the children of this generation. In some respect we should let them venture out and discover all the good aspects media holds, but then people have abused media and turned aspect negative.


  3. Ruby O

    The use of social media and other forms of media have become a growing problem that cannot just be resolved by parents but the government too. The labour government put forward ideas in order to tackle the issue, this was a fundamental start. Although we can all express our concern to how media is taking over children innocent minds, we need to understand that the evolution of the society we live in , is based on social media.Therefore we are not expected to embrace this growing problem but accept that change occurs and find methods in order to limit the damage.


  4. Lorrina

    Social media has evolved so much and will continue, it may become even more risky in the future and harder to control. The biggest risks is that children could be communicating with people who they don’t know or who believe to be someone who they aren’t . To minimise the risk children need to be educated and there needs to be much more awareness on media safety as it continues to change over the years. Parents should also monitor and talk to the child about the risks.


  5. L&M

    It is concerning how the media has drastically changed over the space of ten years, from social media not existing to five years old being able to access the internet or even posses a phone. However, little has been done in terms of preventing negative media effects on young children such as exposure to violence and the implications of this. Furthermore, media content with age restrictions should be revised so young children under the restricted age can not easily access this type of media by simply ticking a button, as this is one of the main issues of children being able to access content that is harmful and not appropriate to them.


  6. Harriet & Georgia

    We feel it’s imporant parents are aware of the risks that are associated with social media and that the increase in reporting online abuse demonstrates that children are at greater risk than previous years. children are creating social media profiles at a younger age so are not aware of the dangers and are exposed to inappropriate material.


  7. Emily and Mae

    We feel that in order to help prevent safety issues online, websites such as should be shown more regularly as well as age appropriate safety workshops provided to a range of ages as like the article suggests, children are getting younger in their usage of social media. Empowering children to confidently and safely use media instead of banning it would be very helpful in the battle against safeguarding concerns.


  8. H

    If sites such as social media sites wanted to stop children accessing websites then they could, it is seen as a problem but there is more that could be done. – For example, on mobile data you have to enter a credit card to be able to access age restricted material. It would be seen as too much of a diverse subject, so no matter what was done there would be arguments. Like with TV if you have to watch a 12,15 or 18 then you have to enter a pin set by parental controls, the same should be done with young children’s internet access.


  9. Becky & Leanne

    I think the dangers of social media should be emphasized more to parents now because social media is so popular. It is common for children under the required age to have a social media profile which I believe is unnecessary. However this could be due to children feeling pressured into it because all their peers have one and parents not wanting their children to feel left out. However it is the Government who need to provide this information for parents to look into because they have the resources to research this area.


  10. Ash

    Who’s fault is it? i mean do we blame the children themselves, parents, or even the society. What have we done to the children of today, some are truly glued to media sources.
    If us adults are glued to social media sites children are just as likely to be as glued as we are – we are influencing children hugely and we don’t even think of what we are doing.
    Parental control – does this even happen anymore? I have seen too many children watching and playing games that aren’t suitable for their age! Hello … parents do you even care about the impact on your child? If your child is playing Grand Theft Auto and they have become aggressive in the behaviour they present, maybe consider parental control over your child’s game.
    Just think about what children are exposed to when using media!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hannah and Shan

    There is great concern in the increase of online child abuse and the access of social networking at at an early age. Maybe educating children on the risks of online use should begin in primary school to reduce the chances of children accessing content that is age inappropriate


  12. Blah Blah

    Firstly, Our current Conservative government does not help in reducing online risks posed against children as continuous and multiple cuts are made against the police. This leaves children vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.mWe should take the Canadian approach and focus more on prevention, to stop it happening in the first place.


  13. Pingback: Keeping children safe online – Contemplating Childhoods

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