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Tuesday, 27 November, 2001, 16:29 GMT
Safety fears limit online learning
children using computer
Children are losing out on the benefits, research says
Fears over safety are leading many parents to restrict their children's access to the internet, a report warns.

Outright bans on e-mail and chatroom are common, as parents fear paedophiles, "stranger danger", surveillance or exploitation, the report by Citizens Online and the Institute for Public Policy Research says.

child with computer
Is it safer than we think?
But the fears are also technical, such as breaking the computer, downloading a virus, losing a file or disabling software.

Many children and young people in the UK are failing to gain from the benefits of the internet as a result, the study warns.

While acknowledging that some risks are real, report author Professor Sonia Livingstone of the London School of Economics says children's contact with strangers when using e-mail and chatrooms is infrequent, with most contact involving school friends.


"Moreover, for many children it is their enthusiasm for online communication - which for them included rapid, unmoderated interchanges, swearing, sending personal photos and e-mail address - which first motivates them to gain the ICT skills which transfer to more 'approved' activities," said Professor Livingstone.

"Banning the former inhibits the latter."

Limiting children's use of the internet's interactive activities would undermine the opportunities for learning through exploration, participation and fun, she added.

Professor Livingstone suggests a surfing proficiency test would be one way to address the issue.

Short periods of training on internet safety could be offered in community locations for parents and children alike.

Her report recommends that the government, schools and internet service providers should come together to help parents with the burden of responsibility.

And it suggets an awareness campaign to improve public understanding of the internet.

See also:

26 Nov 01 | Education
Learning games do not boost results
02 Nov 00 | Education
Lessons from computer use at home
21 Sep 00 | Education
City-wide school computers scheme
09 Aug 00 | Education
Online children leave parents behind
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