Too many Aussie parents are in the dark about the sex and violence kids see every day online, according to a new study by the eSafety Commissioner,
The study, "Mind the Gap: Parental Awareness of Children's Exposure to Risks Online," found six in 10 teens told researchers they’ve seen harmful content online.*
But only four in 10 parents are aware that teens are regularly exposed to extreme, negative content - including images and messaging around drug-taking, suicide, self-harm, mutilation, and violent pornography.
Fifty-five percent of kids in all age groups admitted communicating with a stranger online, compared with parental awareness of 34%.
Nearly half of teens said they’d received sexual messages from someone online, but only 16% of parents reported knowing about it.
That’s according to a new study by the eSafety Commissioner of more than 3,500 kids aged eight to 17 and their parents.
Fears around confiding in parents
The study found that children are unlikely to confide in mum and dad about disturbing content because “it is stigmatising, and no child wants to get in trouble and have the internet taken away.”
It’s a message parents need to hear, say experts.
A previous study of 1000 mums and dads found two-thirds said their “ultimate threat” is taking away their child’s devices.
Yet in a crisis, confiscating devices will almost certainly make a bad situation worse - alienating kids and making it less likely that they’ll seek the help they need from parents, warns Family Zone cyber expert and clinical psychologist Jordan Foster.
“What this means to the child is that she is being punished for sharing something with her parents.”
In a crisis, confiscating devices will almost certainly make a bad situation worse - alienating kids and making it less likely that they’ll seek the help they need from parents
The resulting fear creates a communication barrier between kids and parents, and this “is a tremendous problem when it comes to the online world," says Foster.
The eSafety study also found an awareness gap between kids and parents when it came to cyberbullying.
The research confirmed that significant numbers of children have had negative online experiences. Close to half were treated in a hurtful or nasty way online in the past year, while a quarter admitted that they themselves treated someone in a hurtful or nasty way online.
More than two-thirds of kids told researchers they’d reported bullying behaviour to their parents. But only half of parents said they were aware their children had been targets, and a only third that they had been perpetrators.
* If that number seems low to you - and it does to us, too - it's probably owing to kids' fears of being blamed for what they see, despite the fact that exposure to such material is often unintentional.
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To improve the level of online safety and protection given for children, the Family Zone parental app is being replaced with the world-leading Qustodio parental app.Learn more