Page last updated at 07:07 GMT, Thursday, 17 July 2008 08:07 UK

Children discuss internet safety

Teenage boy using the internet
The conference will give children a voice on internet safety

Children from around the world are meeting in London to discuss how they can better protect themselves from the dangers posed by the internet.

More than 150 teenagers from 19 different countries will attend the five-day conference and voice their opinions to government and industry.

Their aim is to draw up a global online charter to be presented to the UN.

It comes as a new report suggests more than one in 10 teenagers have had explicit conversations online.

Empowering children

The International Youth Advisory Congress on Internet Safety has been organised by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), an alliance of British and foreign police forces, computer experts, charities and schools.

Jim Gamble, chief executive of Ceop, said children "occupy" the internet and speak its language, and it was important to give them a voice on the subject.

Jim Gamble, Ceop chief executive
Jim Gamble says children have a lot to contribute to the debate

He told the BBC: "Lots of companies will sponsor surveys and will get involved in educational initiatives. Lots of that tells us what we already know

"This is about young people over the next five days talking to government, talking to industry and demanding that those environments are made safer for them.

"We will not be patronising these children. They will be in the environment where they will engage law enforcement, government, industry and others, they will ask the questions and deliver the challenges."

He added that by "empowering them, they can better protect themselves".

Safety code

The conference comes as a new survey shows that more than a quarter of 11 to 18-year-olds have visited adult websites, while 27% of them had interacted with strangers online.

The annual Mobile Life survey for the Carphone Warehouse, which polled 6,000 adults and children aged 11-18 in the UK and the US, also found 10% had met someone in person they originally met on the internet.

The study also found most of the parents polled had not checked their children's online history, but 26% of those who had done had found something they were unhappy with.

TV psychologist Dr Tanya Byron, who contributed to the report, said: "I think the key is for parents to treat the issue of online safety in the same way that they would approach other potential danger areas.

"Would you let your children learn how to cross the road via trial and error? No, you teach them the Green Cross Code.

"Now, with the increasing importance of wireless technology and the role it plays in our children's lives, we must all learn and teach the Online Safety Code."

Her suggestions include parents learning how to set privacy settings on home computers and teaching children how to report abuse or offensive material.

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