NSPCC - 'How safe are our children?'

Updated: Mar 8, 2020

As a company, we aim to help protect future generations from the dangers of technology and the internet. As technological devices become available to children at younger and younger ages, the threat of online risks become more and more prevalent. We hope ‘Cyber Crisis’ will teach children how to protect themselves online and thus, how to remain safe. While we were developing our product, we researched the how the growing cyber world is affecting the lives of children. One way in which we did this was by reading many reports published by various organisations.

The NSPCC has released an annual ‘How safe are our children?’ report for the past six years, collecting data from across the UK regarding child abuse to demonstrate the current information about safeguarding. However, online abuse has become such a big issue over the past few years, that the 2019 report focussed solely on the issue of cyber safeguarding.

The Chief Executive of the NSPCC, Peter Wanless, begins the report with, ‘The digital world is an amazing one for young people… Yet this online world remains unacceptably dangerous for young people and, unless things change, the future does not look promising… 2020 can be a year in which the UK leads the world in its efforts to enhance child protection for children. ’

Here at METIS, we aim to be a part of the effort to protect children online, simply because it is so important.

We chose to then focus on one of the five key findings of the report, that ‘less than half of children aged 12 to 15 say they know how to change their settings to control who can view their social media’. We believe this to be an enormous danger to children as it is a matter of personal safety that could harm their daily life and even their future, which is simply due to lack of awareness. We can help combat this lack of awareness through education that will ultimately make the future lives of children safer.

A key message that Mr Wanless states is that, ‘the best way to tackle abuse is to stop it from happening in the first place’. We hope to implement this preventive strategy through our board game by providing guidance to hypothetical but realistic threats, so that if a child then ever does face a similar hazard in real life, they will know how to effectively solve the issue. This is how we came up with the basis for our board game.

Our next major decision was working out what age our game should be aimed at. We examined various resources to decide this.

The first, was the 2018 Life in Likes report by the Children’s Commissioner, which examines the effects of social media on 8 to 12-years olds. The report states that ‘most social media platforms have a minimum age limit of 13, but research shows a growing number of children aged under 13 are using social media, with 3 in 4 children aged 10-12 having their own accounts’. This gave us our first indicator that our game needed to be educating children under the age of 10, so that by the time they became 10 and created a social media account, they would know how to stay safe. This is also an important age, as recent studies by ‘Internet Matters’ have shown that the average age for a child to get their first phone is also at 10 years.

Another resource we researched was an online safety education programme for 4 to 7 years olds called Jessie and Friends, a three-episode animation that aims to teach children how to protect themselves from sexual abuse and other risks they could encounter online. However, we soon realised that the key message was that if a child feels worried about anything they come across online, they should seek help from a trusted adult. While telling an adult is really important, we also wanted to guide children to become independent. So we realised that our targeted age had to be older than 4 years old to be able to understand the guidance our product would offer them.

We finalised our targeted age group after out market research, carried out in December as 7+, as that was by far the most popular response and based off of our online research, seemed like the most suitable age group for the information to actually be useful for but also for the children to be old enough to be able to absorb the information effectively.

Ultimately, researching into child safeguarding has been crucial in the development of our product; we have closely examined various reports by a plethora of different organisations and looked at different statistics to try and work out how to make our product the most useful. Because technology is becoming accessible to younger age groups who are unequipped to deal with online risks, we want to help protect future generations from threats that are becoming both more prevalent and dangerous. In the end, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so preventive measures are always better than remedial ones.

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