Australian parents’ concerns differ from kids’ actual behavior online

Parenting in the digital age can be challenging. On the one hand, parents know that denying their children access to the internet is impractical and does not help prepare them for the future. While on the other hand, recent research shows Australian children spend an average of more than 13 hours a week online, and that during this time, more than a quarter have engaged in risky behavior.

Knowledge is power

When it comes to protecting your children online, knowledge is power. Parents need to know what risks their children are exposed to most commonly to protect them. With this in mind, ESET asked Australian parents what they are most concerned about. These worries differed significantly from the risks Australian children are actually exposed to:

Risks children have taken onlineRisks parents are most worried about
Know someone who has experienced cyber bullying (40%)Children might accidentally see adult material (84%)
Communicated with a stranger (28%)Children downloading malicious software (82%)
Connected with a stranger on social media (27%)Their child’s permanent digital footprint (75%)
Given out their email address to strangers (14%)Peer-to-peer bullying (74%)
Sent photos of themselves to strangers (11%)Identity theft and security of personal or financial details (70%)
Given their phone number to a stranger (8%)Security of personal or financial details caused the least concern, however nearly a third of parents admitted this was still an issue

With these findings in mind, what steps should parents take to protect their children?

Protecting children online

Kids online

“The most effective approach to cyber security is to focus on educating children.”

“The most effective approach to cyber security is to focus on educating children,” said Righard Zwienenberg, a senior research fellow at ESET.

“We should encourage children to talk to parents or teachers about their online experiences, while we in return teach them about risky behaviour and how to stay safe while they enjoy the web.”

Mr. Zwienenberg advised that other proactive ways in which parents can prevent kids from being involved in difficult situations include:

  • Installing a parental control feature to lock your kids out of potentially harmful websites
  • Using a shared computer in a shared space at home, such as a desktop in the study or living room (our study showed, for example, that 15% of those using a shared device reported engaging in risky behaviour, as opposed to 38% of those with their own mobile phone or computer)
  • Monitoring your children’s activities on the internet

For more information, check out our feature on security tips, as well our brilliant portal on cyber parenting. It’s a great introduction to all the key issues regarding online safety.

The survey, titled Keeping Kids Safe Online, was commissioned by security software company ESET and conducted by Lonergan Research. 1,053 Australian parents and their children aged 5-16 years old were asked about their online behavior.

Author , ESET

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