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Safe and Secure Online:

Tim Wilson, lead UK volunteer

for the (ISC)2 Safe and Secure Online program and assistant director ICT, NHS East London and City, tells us what he does, what he hears, and why you too should get involved in Safe and Secure Online

Make it Count H

ow many contacts have you got on your MSN Instant Messenger (IM) contact list that you have only met online? I had asked this question, many times. On this occasion, at a primary school in Kent, the pretty blond nine-year-old girl had the most contacts: 257 ‘friends’ that she had never met in real life.

This was 2010, and I’d been an (ISC)2 Safe

and Secure Online (SASO) volunteer for over a year. Facebook was not that popular in schools at that point – instead, online chat was preferred. I recall a ten-year-old boy in the same class who admitted to meeting some of his online ‘friends’ without taking a parent or adult. His parents were shocked; but unfortunately, having done a few of these sessions in secondary schools, the shock factor for me had subsided – replaced only by acute sadness.

The Facebook Era

In the last few years, Facebook has become very popular with students. Despite the minimum age for Facebook being 13, this rule is regularly fl outed. Students from age seven have their own Facebook accounts. In one incident relayed to me by the head teacher of a primary school, an eight-year-old girl sent a ‘friend’ request to her male teacher; the teacher was distraught because the friend request included a topless photo of the girl on a beach. He feared for the

implications that could be drawn from that.

By the time children

get to year fi ve in school (nine to 10), about 60% have Facebook accounts, approximately 75% of year six, and 90% of year sevens. I ask the classes

Wilson and a group of primary school pupils display their Safe and Secure Online wristbands


what age Facebook thinks they are. Responses have ranged from between 18 and 75, with most claiming to be in

their mid-twenties. May/June 2012

In one secondary school, two 12-year-old girls said they had gone to meet a ’14-year- old guy’ they had spoken with in an online chat room. He had ‘confi rmed’ his age by sending a photograph. They insisted they met in a public place, which turned out to be the local park: the most un-public, public place I know.

The results of an electronic survey I have carried out on 1555 10- to 12-year-olds show that 10% have physically met someone they fi rst encountered online. Of these, a quarter went alone to the meeting.

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