Tees Society Forum chairman Peter Medd has turned attention on how keeping children safe must to be balanced with the need to ensure they learn the life skills to give them the knowledge and independence to progress in life, particularly in the world of work.
The Forum provides leading community figures with a platform to examine key social issues affecting the Tees Valley.
This month’s question was: What main dangers do you think children are exposed to in today’s society and what needs to be done to help protect them and keep them safe?
Mr Medd, a director of Redcar-based Cygnet Law, said: “As a firm that specialises in family law, we are only too well aware of how vulnerable children can be and the unprecedented dangers and temptations that they face in today’s world.
“However, while children need to be protected, there needs to be a balance. Being overzealous to an extent that prevents a child from learning vital life skills, such as becoming independent, thinking for themselves, and developing daily living and social skills, could impair their future employment prospects.
“It is important that parents, guardians or carers prepare children for how the world really works. This includes giving them the knowledge to recognise the tell-tale signs of dangers, such as cyber bulling, online grooming or being lured into taking drugs, and the confidence to tell a trusted adult if they feel they are falling prey.”
Richinda Taylor, Chief Executive of domestic violence charity Eva, said:
“Because of all the dangers facing our children today, it has never been more important than now to ensure they grow up in an environment where the lines of communication are always open, and they feel able to talk to an adult about their concerns.
“It doesn’t have to be a parent or carer – it could be a teacher, youth worker, older sibling, or any other responsible adult who will believe a child and act appropriately to ensure their safety.
“Fortunately, we are now in an era where children and young people are encouraged to speak out, but often they need assistance to do so, and seeing others in similar situations as them such as in soaps and on YouTube can help them gather the courage to do so. Conversely, exposure to the internet also brings with it new dangers and again, this is where parents and carers must take the responsibility to educate children and young people before the damage can be done.”
Iain Sim, Chief Executive of Coast & Country, one of the largest regeneration and housing companies in the region, said: “As parents, carers, educators and authority figures we encourage children to share, but online it’s very different. The online world can be a very dangerous place for a child. That’s why we have been supporting the NSPCC with their Share Aware campaign, and urge others to help protect children from some of the perils the online community can present.
“Children face risks such as cyberbullying, being exposed to inappropriate content, communicating with people they don’t know and sharing personal information. These are just some of the examples of the dangers children encounter online and this is why it’s so important to work together to ensure their safety.
“We need to raise awareness about staying safe online, by starting conversations, providing safety advice and guidance and encouraging people to broaden their knowledge of online safety. The NSPCC’s recent Share Aware campaign is a great place to start.”
Martin Shutt, Managing Director of estate agents Parker Stag, said:
“I feel one of the main dangers children are exposed to is the easy access to the internet and social media.
“It is far too easy to access unsuitable material and become someone they simply aren’t. In addition to this, the access to Social Media easily creates a culture of bullying.
“Age limit and content restrictions to these areas need to be closely monitored.”
Darren Ditchburn, General Manager Customer Experience and Distribution at Darlington Building Society, said: “Clearly today’s digital world brings our children many advantages, however the biggest disadvantage of the digital era is the many dangers it can bring to our children.
“Children have access to endless amounts of unedited content at their fingertips through their mobile and tablet devices 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
“It is very difficult for parents to control and monitor children’s usage of technology and I think more work can be done in schools and by facilitators of the content to protect children and keep them safe.”
David Walsh, who is standing for a Redcar and Cleveland Council seat in the local elections, said: “The revelations in areas like Rotherham and Rochdale reveal that the danger of sexual exploitation is a ticking time bomb in many communities.
He added: We have to recognise the sheer level of pressure within which social workers and their managers work – they have a difficult and demanding role, are handling too many cases individually and they get more brickbats than the support and recognition they deserve.
“Protecting children is one of the most important jobs our councils do, but they cannot do this on their own. There is an answer. We saw the other month how the government, under pressure from a NHS failing to cope with winter pressures, recently pledged £2bn to alleviate that issue. We need Whitehall to redress the child protection crisis and give our councils the level of adequate resources they need to get on with the vital job of protecting children.”