Almost half of children and three quarters of parents and carers are worried about safety risks amidst fast-paced technological developments such as genAI.

06 Feb 2024 Becca Cawthorne

Research launched for Safer Internet Day reveals that young people are excited about changes in online technology but express the need for conversation and better support

  • Three quarters (74%) of parents and carers, and just under half (45%) of children have worries about safety as developments with artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and new social media apps continue to accelerate
  • While 70% of young people say they are excited about the potential of generative AI (genAI) to improve their lives and lives of their friends, over half (53%) of children who have used genAI have seen their peers use it in a negative way
  • Both children and parents/carers agree the Online Safety Act is needed because social media companies need stronger regulations to protect young people’s safety online
  • 80% of children and young people think that young people should be listened to more about changes in technology, such as how it can remain safe
  • This Safer Internet Day, UKSIC want to empower young people to lead valuable conversations with parents, carers and teachers on how we can all work together to stay safe amidst such a fast-moving, and often unknown, technological environment

New research released by the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC), coordinators of Safer Internet Day in the UK, reveals that while young people are excited about the way in which developments and changes in technology such as AI, VR, and new social media apps could enhance their lives, they also understand the need for wider discussions and greater education around these. The research also reveals low awareness of the Online Safety Act, a new law which priorities the safety of children online and places new duties on social media companies around the content shared on their platforms, with only 32% of children and 42% of parents and carers having heard of this.

A third (33%) of young people in the UK say they have used genAI, such as Chat GPT or SnapAI before. While most young people who have used genAI  have seen their peers using it positively (72%), over half (53%) have seen people their age use it in a negative way, for example creating images used to upset someone or creating believable false information.This was also evident as 60% of children who have used genAI and 61% of parents and carers believe that it has safety risks for children.

The research, conducted by Censuswide, received more than 4,000 responses from parents, carers and young people.

Safer Internet Day is supported by thousands of organisations in the UK, including government ministers, industry bodies, celebrities, charities, schools, and police services, and more, with activities running right across the UK and estimated to reach over 50% of young people, supporting conversations about online safety between children and young people and parents and carers.  

UKSIC Director, Will Gardner OBE, said:

“Our research shows the excitement many young people feel over the changing online landscape and emerging technologies. However it also shows the concerns young people have around safety and the need they see for more support; views shared by their parents and carers. On Safer Internet Day we see thousands of organisations across the UK working to make a difference, using this moment as an opportunity to take practical steps and to talk about keeping safe online and making vital conversations happen at home, at school and beyond. Young people are living their lives engaging with rapidly evolving online technology, and Safer Internet Day is the perfect opportunity to start listening to what they have to say and learning from their experiences and ideas.’

Inspiring change? The future online

Safer Internet Day 2024 focuses on how young people are not only navigating the online changes happening around them, but also using the internet to inspire positive change, including standing up for groups that are targeted online. 61% of young people say they have regularly sent a friend a kind message online if that friend felt sad or unsafe online and over half (64% of 15-year-olds) have changed their profile picture online or added a filter to support a cause or campaign in the last year. In addition, well over a third (39%) feel that online influencers inspire them to have a positive impact in the world. However, 74% of parents and carers worry that influencers on social media could have a negative impact on the mental or emotional well-being of their child.

The research found that the majority of young people have a positive outlook on the ever-changing online world, with 66% saying they feel excited about changes including developments with artificial intelligence, virtual reality headsets and new social media apps. And yet, along with this positive outlook, a significant number of young people, 36%, say they feel worried about these changes.

As legislation develops to help try and keep young people safe online, we need to ensure that young people know about the changes affecting them and are involved in shaping how this looks in the future. Currently, only 32% of young people and 42% of parents and carers have heard of the Online Safety Act, though 57% of young people want to know more about the Act. While awareness of the Act may be low, its intention to help keep young people safe is particularly important to them, with 67% agreeing that the Act is needed because social media companies need stronger regulations to protect young people’s safety online.

The majority are hopeful that the Act will make a difference. 55% of young people and 58% of parents think the Online Safety Act will make a positive difference to the safety of young people on social media. 

New technologies bringing new challenges

70% of young people who said they had used genAI, such as ChatGPT or SnapAI, say that they are excited about the potential of this technology to improve their lives and the lives of their friends and 72% have seen people their age use genAI in a positive way. However, as well as these positive sentiments, 60% of young people that report using genAI believe it has online safety risks.

Young people want to know about how to stay safe whilst using new and emerging technologies, with 65% of 8-17s who have used genAI stating that they want better support to learn about the safe use of it and what to do if they have a problem.

Added to this, 65% of young people think that social media companies such as Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok should do more to help teach young people about online safety as the technology they create changes.

The role of parents and carers

While many young people feel excited about changes to online technology and many parents and carers feel positive about the support they have been able to give to their children to stay safe online so far, they are much less confident about keeping up with this as technology rapidly evolves. While 75% of parents and carers say they trust they have equipped their child with the information and knowledge they need to stay safe in different online contexts, 74% would like to know more about how to help ensure their child is safe online as technology changes.

Conversations with friends, parents, carers, and trusted adults emerged as the most important strategy that young people use to stay safe online and to manage some of the worries and pressures that can come with the fast pace of change online. 43% of young people say conversations with parents and carers are helpful to manage pressures or worries in the context of online trends and changing technology. Specifically, conversations are important to young people if they are worried about their friends’ safety, with well over half of 8-17s (58%) saying they have talked to a responsible adult at least once or twice in the last year because they were worried about something online that seemed unsafe for their friends.

As well as turning to trusted adults for help, young people are continuing to support their peers, with 70% of 8-17 year-old’s having talked with a friend in the last year about how they can stay safe online and 50% doing this at least once a month.

Overall, the message is one of the need for collaboration and young people, parents, carers, and the government working together to ensure a safe environment online as technology continues to move at such a pace.

Coordinated in the UK by the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC), Safer Internet Day is celebrated in over a hundred countries, coordinated by the joint Insafe/INHOPE network and national Safer Internet Centres across Europe. In the UK, the work of the UKSIC, including the organisation of Safer Internet Day, is made possible by funding by Nominet and others (see www.saferinternetday.org.uk).

New research released by the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC), coordinators of Safer Internet Day in the UK, reveals that while young people are excited about the way in which developments and changes in technology such as AI, VR, and new social media apps could enhance their lives, they also understand the need for wider discussions and greater education around these.The research also reveals low awareness of the Online Safety Act, a new law which priorities the safety of children online and places new duties on social media companies around the content shared on their platforms, with only 32% of children and 42% of parents and carers having heard of this.

A third (33%) of young people in the UK say they have used genAI, such as Chat GPT or SnapAI before. While most young people who have used genAI  have seen their peers using it positively (72%), over half (53%) have seen people their age use it in a negative way, for example creating images used to upset someone or creating believable false information.This was also evident as 60% of children who have used genAI and 61% of parents and carers believe that it has safety risks for children.

The research, conducted by Censuswide, received more than 4,000 responses from parents, carers and young people.

Safer Internet Day is supported by thousands of organisations in the UK, including government ministers, industry bodies, celebrities, charities, schools, and police services, and more, with activities running right across the UK and estimated to reach over 50% of young people, supporting conversations about online safety between children and young people and parents and carers.  

UKSIC Director, Will Gardner OBE, said:

“Our research shows the excitement many young people feel over the changing online landscape and emerging technologies. However it also shows the concerns young people have around safety and the need they see for more support; views shared by their parents and carers. On Safer Internet Day we see thousands of organisations across the UK working to make a difference, using this moment as an opportunity to take practical steps and to talk about keeping safe online and making vital conversations happen at home, at school and beyond. Young people are living their lives engaging with rapidly evolving online technology, and Safer Internet Day is the perfect opportunity to start listening to what they have to say and learning from their experiences and ideas.’

Inspiring change? The future online

Safer Internet Day 2024 focuses on how young people are not only navigating the online changes happening around them, but also using the internet to inspire positive change, including standing up for groups that are targeted online. 61% of young people say they have regularly sent a friend a kind message online if that friend felt sad or unsafe online and over half (64% of 15-year-olds) have changed their profile picture online or added a filter to support a cause or campaign in the last year. In addition, well over a third (39%) feel that online influencers inspire them to have a positive impact in the world. However, 74% of parents and carers worry that influencers on social media could have a negative impact on the mental or emotional well-being of their child.

The research found that the majority of young people have a positive outlook on the ever-changing online world, with 66% saying they feel excited about changes including developments with artificial intelligence, virtual reality headsets and new social media apps. And yet, along with this positive outlook, a significant number of young people, 36%, say they feel worried about these changes.

As legislation develops to help try and keep young people safe online, we need to ensure that young people know about the changes affecting them and are involved in shaping how this looks in the future. Currently, only 32% of young people and 42% of parents and carers have heard of the Online Safety Act, though 57% of young people want to know more about the Act. While awareness of the Act may be low, its intention to help keep young people safe is particularly important to them, with 67% agreeing that the Act is needed because social media companies need stronger regulations to protect young people’s safety online.

The majority are hopeful that the Act will make a difference. 55% of young people and 58% of parents think the Online Safety Act will make a positive difference to the safety of young people on social media. 

New technologies bringing new challenges

70% of young people who said they had used genAI, such as ChatGPT or SnapAI, say that they are excited about the potential of this technology to improve their lives and the lives of their friends and 72% have seen people their age use genAI in a positive way. However, as well as these positive sentiments, 60% of young people that report using genAI believe it has online safety risks.

Young people want to know about how to stay safe whilst using new and emerging technologies, with 65% of 8-17s who have used genAI stating that they want better support to learn about the safe use of it and what to do if they have a problem.

Added to this, 65% of young people think that social media companies such as Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok should do more to help teach young people about online safety as the technology they create changes.

The role of parents and carers

While many young people feel excited about changes to online technology and many parents and carers feel positive about the support they have been able to give to their children to stay safe online so far, they are much less confident about keeping up with this as technology rapidly evolves. While 75% of parents and carers say they trust they have equipped their child with the information and knowledge they need to stay safe in different online contexts, 74% would like to know more about how to help ensure their child is safe online as technology changes.

Conversations with friends, parents, carers, and trusted adults emerged as the most important strategy that young people use to stay safe online and to manage some of the worries and pressures that can come with the fast pace of change online. 43% of young people say conversations with parents and carers are helpful to manage pressures or worries in the context of online trends and changing technology. Specifically, conversations are important to young people if they are worried about their friends’ safety, with well over half of 8-17s (58%) saying they have talked to a responsible adult at least once or twice in the last year because they were worried about something online that seemed unsafe for their friends.

As well as turning to trusted adults for help, young people are continuing to support their peers, with 70% of 8-17 year-old’s having talked with a friend in the last year about how they can stay safe online and 50% doing this at least once a month.

Overall, the message is one of the need for collaboration and young people, parents, carers, and the government working together to ensure a safe environment online as technology continues to move at such a pace.

Coordinated in the UK by the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC), Safer Internet Day is celebrated in over a hundred countries, coordinated by the joint Insafe/INHOPE network and national Safer Internet Centres across Europe. In the UK, the work of the UKSIC, including the organisation of Safer Internet Day, is made possible by funding by Nominet and others (see www.saferinternetday.org.uk).

-Ends-

For more information and to arrange interviews, please get in touch with the Safer Internet Day team on saferinternetday@standagency.com or on 07551845013 and 07513135243.

About Safer Internet Day

Safer Internet Day is celebrated globally in February each year, to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology for children and young people and inspire a national conversation.

The UK theme for Safer Internet Day 2024 is Inspiring change? Making a difference, managing influence and navigating change online.”

Coordinated in the UK by the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC), Safer Internet Day is celebrated in over a hundred countries, coordinated by the joint Insafe/INHOPE network and national Safer Internet Centres across Europe. In the UK the work of the UKSIC is part funded by Nominet and others ( see www.saferinternetday.org.uk).        

Safer Internet Day unites millions of young people, schools, and organisations to spark conversations about online safety and trust online. Organisations are taking part, joining young people in conversation, as well as hosting events. Across the day, UKSIC will be releasing toolkits, resources, and live content.

The day offers the opportunity to highlight positive uses of technology and to explore the role we all play in helping to create a better and safer online community. For more information on Safer Internet Day 2024, please visit: www.saferinternetday.org.uk.

Top tips for children and parents and carers to talk about internet safety are available here:  https://saferinternet.org.uk/sid-parents

Safer Internet Day 2024 coincides with Children’s Mental Health Week, which is organised by Place2Be. To find out more about the week visit: https://www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/

About the research

A quantitative survey was conducted online by Censuswide in October 2023, with 2,008 parents (aged 25+)  and their children aged 8-17, (4016 in total).  Childnet also consulted its Digital Leaders, aged 8-17, in December 2023. The full research report will be available from 6th February at http://saferinternet.org.uk/sid-report

About the UK Safer Internet Centre

The UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC), established in 2011, is a leading global partnership helping to make the internet a great and safe place for everyone.

We provide support and services to children and young people, adults facing online harms, and professionals working with children.

We are unique. Formed of three charities, Childnet, Internet Watch Foundation and SWGfL, we work together to identify threats and harms online and then create and deliver critical advice, resources, education and interventions that help keep children and young people, and adults, safe. We share our best practices across the UK and globally.

UKSIC is the proud coordinator of Safer Internet Day in the UK. For more information on the next Safer Internet Day and how you can get involved – click here.

We work alongside 30 other centres across the European continent. Since 2022, we have been part-funded by Nominet – the public benefit company that operates and protects UK internet infrastructure and uses surplus funds to support projects that promote digital inclusion. Prior to that, we were appointed and part-funded by the European Commission as the Safer Internet Centre for the UK.

For more information and to arrange interviews, please get in touch with the Safer Internet Day team on saferinternetday@standagency.com or on 07551845013 and 07513135243.

About Safer Internet Day

Safer Internet Day is celebrated globally in February each year, to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology for children and young people and inspire a national conversation.

The UK theme for Safer Internet Day 2024 is Inspiring change? Making a difference, managing influence and navigating change online.”

Coordinated in the UK by the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC), Safer Internet Day is celebrated in over a hundred countries, coordinated by the joint Insafe/INHOPE network and national Safer Internet Centres across Europe. In the UK the work of the UKSIC is part funded by Nominet and others ( see www.saferinternetday.org.uk).        

Safer Internet Day unites millions of young people, schools, and organisations to spark conversations about online safety and trust online. Organisations are taking part, joining young people in conversation, as well as hosting events. Across the day, UKSIC will be releasing toolkits, resources, and live content.

The day offers the opportunity to highlight positive uses of technology and to explore the role we all play in helping to create a better and safer online community. For more information on Safer Internet Day 2024, please visit: www.saferinternetday.org.uk.

Top tips for children and parents and carers to talk about internet safety are available here:  https://saferinternet.org.uk/sid-parents

Safer Internet Day 2024 coincides with Children’s Mental Health Week, which is organised by Place2Be. To find out more about the week visit: https://www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/

About the research

A quantitative survey was conducted online by Censuswide in October 2023, with 2,008 parents (aged 25+)  and their children aged 8-17, (4016 in total).  Childnet also consulted its Digital Leaders, aged 8-17, in December 2023. The full research report will be available from 6th February at http://saferinternet.org.uk/sid-report

About the UK Safer Internet Centre

The UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC), established in 2011, is a leading global partnership helping to make the internet a great and safe place for everyone.

We provide support and services to children and young people, adults facing online harms, and professionals working with children.

We are unique. Formed of three charities, Childnet, Internet Watch Foundation and SWGfL, we work together to identify threats and harms online and then create and deliver critical advice, resources, education and interventions that help keep children and young people, and adults, safe. We share our best practices across the UK and globally.

UKSIC is the proud coordinator of Safer Internet Day in the UK. For more information on the next Safer Internet Day and how you can get involved – click here.

We work alongside 30 other centres across the European continent. Since 2022, we have been part-funded by Nominet – the public benefit company that operates and protects UK internet infrastructure and uses surplus funds to support projects that promote digital inclusion. Prior to that, we were appointed and part-funded by the European Commission as the Safer Internet Centre for the UK.