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Fresh warning for church youth workers after figures highlight online dangers

Tue 07 Feb 2017
By Alex Williams

Church youth workers are being warned not to use the internet as a "digital babysitter" to keep youngsters occupied, as a new report reveals 70 per cent of children and young people have seen unsuitable images and videos online.

The new figures released on Safer Internet Day are prompting digital experts to encourage youth leaders to help youngsters avoid pitfalls on the internet, such as pornography.

A Christian and senior lecturer in digital marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University, Dr Bex Lewis, told Premier it's important that church youth workers are aware of online dangers.

She explained: "If they've built a good relationship with the children, they may be the first person a child comes and talks to.

"So, youth workers definitely need to think how they're going to respond to any of that kind of thing."

Commissioned by the UK Safer Internet Centre, the statistics also reveal 45 per cent of those aged between eight and 17 said they had seen nude or almost nude images of someone they knew being shared among their school or community.

Director, Will Gardner, said: "Today's findings remind us that with an ever-changing landscape, it is more important than ever to equip young people with the skills, knowledge, confidence and resilience to communicate using images and videos responsibly and positively."

The online poll, which was carried out by ResearchBods, found 30 per cent of children confessed to sharing a picture they would not want their parents to see.

Dr Lewis said: "If we make the digital part of our everyday conversation within youth work settings, within sermons and within everything, I think we can start to look at how we interact healthily with that kind of space.

As stories come up in the media, which typically are going to be negative ones, youth workers can take that and say, 'How would you have dealt with that? What should we do if that happens?'"

Click here to listen to Dr Bex Lewis speaking with Premier's Alex Williams:

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