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Government Tells Kids To ‘Zip It, Block It, Flag It’

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The UK government has launched an Internet safety campaign, supported by Microsoft’s IE8 “panic button” add-on, on Safer Internet Day

The UK government has launched a nationwide campaign to encourage parents to help their children stay safe online. The initiative is backed by Microsoft, which has simultaneously unveiled a customised version of Internet Explorer 8, called Click Clever Click Safe, promising safer surfing for children.

The government’s campaign to introduce a digital code for online safety – similar to the Green Cross Code for road safety – carries the slogan, “Zip it, Block it, Flag it”. It advises parents to keep their children’s online passwords private, to teach their children to block people who intimidate them, and to regularly check if their children have seen anything online that has upset them.

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“The Internet is a fantastic tool for young people and can open their eyes to tremendous opportunities. But it’s important that parents and children understand the risks involved with using the Internet, as with any area of life,” said Children’s Secretary Ed Balls.

The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) is heading the campaign as part of the EU’s “Safer Internet Day” (9 February) – an annual event that aims to help young people across Europe overcome the threats to their online security and privacy. The theme of this year’s event is “Think B4 U post”, encouraging children to consider the consequences of posting personal information online.

Click Clever Click Safe

Also involved in the campaign is the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), which helped to develop Microsoft’s child-friendly browser. Click Clever Click Safe includes a “panic button” on the screen at all times, giving users the ability to flag up or to report inappropriate or sexual content. It also provides instant access to information on issues such as cyber-bullying, and safety links preloaded in the Favourites bar.

“Internet safety advice needs to be at your fingertips and not hidden away,” said Jim Gamble, chief executive officer of CEOP. “Parents and children should not have to go searching through numerous web pages to find the help they need. The new CEOP-customised Internet Explorer 8 browser will embed advice, help and report services directly into the toolbar to provide a constant, reassuring presence for families who will be one click away from the support they need.”

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CEOP has also developed a new animated film called “Lee and Kim’s Adventures”, designed to introduce very young children to the concepts of personal information and trust. The video focuses on understanding what constitutes “private” information and recognising that people can pretend to be different online. “I am certain that children will identify with the Lee and Kim characters as they and their superhero tackle these issues in an engaging and age-appropriate way,” said David Coleman, clinical psychologist, broadcaster and author. This resource is being delivered to schoolchildren across the UK.

The Byron Review

The recent surge of interest in and concern over the welfare of children online is largely inspired by the Byron Review: a 2008 report by psychologist Dr Tanya Byron entitled “Safer Children in a Digital World”. Byron found that while children are confident with technology, they are still developing critical evaluation skills and need the help of adults to make wise decisions.

“In relation to the Internet we need a shared culture of responsibility with families, industry, government and others in the public and third sectors all playing their part to reduce the availability of potentially harmful material, restrict access to it by children and to increase children’s resilience,” wrote Dr Byron in the report.

In response to the report the government published a comprehensive action plan, setting out key milestones and deadlines. This included details on how the new UKCCIS would be set up, the development of a self-regulatory approach by the industry to make the Internet safer for children, and raising awareness of e-safety issues through education in schools and awareness campaigns.

Children and the Internet

Meanwhile the government has been working on initiatives to get more and more people using computers, in an attempt to narrow the digital divide. Earlier this year Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced the next stage of a scheme to provide 270,000 low-income families with free laptops and broadband access.

We want every family to become a broadband family, and we want every home linked to a school,” said Brown at the time. “It will mean all families can come together, learn together and reap rewards together.”

There are also several initiatives in progress to enable children to use laptops in the classroom. A recent survey by Intel found that three quarters of teachers across Europe want governments to do more to provide computers in schools. Of those teachers surveyed, almost 80 percent said it increases students’ interest in learning, and 57 percent believe using technology in their lessons improves academic performance.

“What all the experts are saying now is that students really need to learn 21st Century skills,” said Lila Ibrahim, general manager of the Emerging Markets Platform Group at Intel. “They need to learn how to collaborate and they need to learn how to present and to communicate. It’s no longer about one teacher to many students, it has to be more personalised. And I think what computers do is they facilitate that change.”