Taking things too farChildren as young as five are set to get mandatory lessons in how to stay safe online, according to new government plans revealed today. The classes will be incorporated into the curriculum by September 2011.

The new internet safety lessons which will tackle topics like cyber-bullying and pedophiles will be include alongside the traditional warnings about strangers, matches and busy roads. There’s no news yet of a chirpy cartoon mascot to promote the campaign, sadly.

The new internet lessons are part of a safety strategy drawn up by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety dubbed Click Clever, Click Safe. It covers not only schools but government, industry and charities. The policy follows recommendations from TV star and psychologist Professor Tanya Byron, who assessed the impact of the internet and gaming on children.

Professor Byron’s findings suggest 99% of 8 to 17 year olds are using the internet and that almost one-in-five of them have come across “inappropriate content”. She also discovered that a third of children are not monitored by their parents while they surf the web.

The government’s new strategy also includes proposals to independently review internet firms to ensure they meet the new child safety standards. All computers provided under the government’s home access scheme will include a panic button to encourage children to seek assistance.

If you need some guidance on how to keep your kids on the straight and narrow before 2011, try our guide to avoiding online nasties.

What do you think of the government proposals? Will lessons in internet safety change the way children surf the web? And is it really surprising that 17 year olds are looking for inappropriate content?

Out now | £free | The Home Office

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