London: Four out of five parents in the UK are more concerned about their children sexting than drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes, according to a study.
A new report by academic Professor Sonia Livingstone has been commissioned to provide up to date evidence of how young people are using the internet, the dangers they face, and the gaps that exist in keeping them safe. The report comes amid growing fears that the threat from online dangers has grown far more quickly than society's response to them, researchers said.
"It comes in the wake of the worries that tech-savvy young people are being exposed to risks that their parents never were and might not know how to confront - like sexting, cyber bullying and content which promotes self-harm, suicide and eating disorders," they said. The report quoted a recent poll which found more parents were concerned about sexting than about their children drinking or smoking.
The YouGov survey showed 78 per cent parents were either fairly or very concerned about sexting, compared to 69 per cent who were worried about alcohol misuse and 67 per cent who were concerned about smoking. Another study last year found 13 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds reported that they had taken topless pictures of themselves and three per cent had taken fully naked pictures of themselves.
More than one in 10 young people say they have been the victim of cyber bullying, and self-harm among children is on the rise amid evidence of a link between internet use and an increased risk of self harm, the report said. "The internet has provided young people with amazing opportunities but has also introduced a host of new dangers which children and parents have never faced before," Karen Bradley, UK Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, said.
"It is increasingly clear that some behaviours which are unacceptable offline are being tolerated or even encouraged online - sometimes with devastating consequences. "We are determined to make Britain the safest place in the world to be online, and to help people protect themselves from the risks they might face," said Bradley.