25 years of the web

Posted on 12 March 2014

...and 25 years of online safety.

Today marks 25 years since British computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee proposed the idea of the World Wide Web.

It triggered a transformation so great that most young people would struggle to imagine a life without the web.

Implications for young people

Childnet was founded in 1995, not long behind the public launch of the web in 1991. It became clear at this time that while the internet had tremendous potential as an educational and entertainment medium for children around the world, significant effort was needed to showcase the ways in which the internet could be positive and transformative for young people as well as helping them to stay safe online.  

Since Childnet’s launch, the digital landscape has continued to shift and develop. We’ve seen the rise of social networking, the impact of mobile technology, and the increasing dominance of video and photo sharing. We have spoken to thousands of children and launched hundreds of resources to educate children, parents and teachers across the UK. 

Just 10 years ago – the web was a very different place

In 2004, YouTube did not exist, and Facebook had not yet been launched in the UK, while it would be another three years before the iPhone would help to create a generation that were online 24/7.

In 2004, the first LSE media project, UK Children Go Online, found that one quarter of 9-19 year olds had never accessed the internet on a computer from home, while just 8% had a games console with internet access.

It also showed that only 15% of parents who had used the internet said they knew how to install a filter.

Today’s digital generation – and digital parents

10 years on and young people’s access to technology is ubiquitous.

The uptake of mobile technology has been rapid. Ofcom’s latest findings show that half of children aged 5-15 now have a tablet at home, and this has more than doubled in the last year.

Children are also using technology at an increasingly young age – even among 3-4 year olds, a third access the internet, while a quarter use a tablet at home.

Despite these rapid changes it is encouraging that parents also seem to be more engaged, confident and savvy about parental controls.  43% of parents have set up parental controls for their home internet, and of the half who have not, just 13% said it was because they didn’t know how to do this, or they were not aware that it is possible.

Nonetheless, the generation gap still exists - nearly half of all parents of 5-15s say their child knows more about the internet than they do, as well as a surprising one in seven of parents of 3-4s. 

Although this continuous growth highlights that there is still work to be done to ensure the internet is a safe and great place, it is positive to see that changes have been made.  

The 25 years ahead

It is unquestionable that the web will continue to grow and change as the use of technology continues to rise and new technologies and services emerge.

As educators, we need to continually stay on top of emerging trends by speaking directly to young people, and continuing to meet the needs of young people, parents, schools and others.

At the heart of our organisation is the belief that when used properly, the web and digital technologies can provide fantastic opportunities for creativity, fun and learning. We believe that by empowering people to recognise online risks and by giving them easy-to-understand, practical tips about staying safe online, we can make a difference in creating a safer and better internet for children across the UK and worldwide in the next 25 years of the web.

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