Pupils hide behind web to view porn

8th July 2005 at 01:00
The internet has become the new "behind the bike sheds" for children wishing to play games or download porn, according to research published this month.

Andrew Hope, of Sunderland university, believes teachers are unaware of the amount of unauthorised use of the internet that goes on in schools.

Writing in this month's edition of the British Journal of Sociology of Education, Dr Hope claims that teachers often do not have enough time to monitor all internet use.

In his study between 1998 and 2001, Dr Hope interviewed 30 members of staff and 63 students, about their use of the web and how this changed when under observation. Students were also observed online.

In all eight institutions, Dr Hope said that he found "students engaged in activities that could be described as inappropriate". This included playing games online and downloading pornography.

However Tim Rylands, ICT teacher at Chew Magna primary school, near Bristol, said that the study should not put parents or schools off using the internet.

He said: "It is an awe-inspiring resource and it would be a desperate shame if children did not have access to the wonders that are there."

Mr Rylands said that with internet filters in place he had never come across any child downloading unsuitable material.

According to Dr Hope's study, pupils concealed screens using books, moved the position of monitors and minimised offending material so as not to be caught.

Older children, more aware of teachers' time limitations, were more willing to risk being caught, and at one school, a group of Year 13 students hacked into staff information and read teachers' peer assessment forms.

Monitoring pupils' internet use was more difficult in secondary schools because of the greater density of computers.

Dr Hope's research follows two reports published earlier this year highlighting children's exposure to adult material when online.

A National Foundation for Educational Research report found that 12 per cent of 13 to 18-year-olds claimed "searching for adult websites" was their main reason for entering cyberspace, while a report by researchers at the London School of Economics found more than 50 per cent of teenagers had come into contact with online pornography.

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