Friday 30 September 2016

Parents out of touch with what children are doing on internet

Published 08/02/2016 | 02:30

A quarter of 6- to 8-year-olds own a tablet or mobile phone (picture posed)
A quarter of 6- to 8-year-olds own a tablet or mobile phone (picture posed)

Parents are increasingly out of touch with what their children are doing online.

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There is a growing digital divide, leaving many parents in the dark to dangers such as cyberbullying, online grooming and pornography, to which their children may be exposed.

The widening gulf has been highlighted in a survey on the internet usage and cyberbullying knowledge of 900 parents of 9- to 16-year-olds, conducted last year by the National Anti-Bullying Centre at Dublin City University (DCU).

It also found high levels of internet use and computer proficiency among 6- to 8-year-olds, more than a quarter (27pc) of whom have their own mobile phone or tablet.

Anti-Bullying Centre director Dr James O'Higgins Norman said the findings flagged up some worrying trends in internet safety of Irish children and said that many parents had welcomed it as a "wake-up call".

He added: "Our research underscores the growing challenges and pressing need to create protections around children from cyberbullying."

The research, released ahead of Safer Internet Day tomorrow, is part of an EU project aimed at developing a new online tool to combat cyberbullying.

Dr O'Higgins Norman said while Irish parents perceive themselves to be vigilant in monitoring computer and internet usage and expressed a wide breadth of knowledge about both the risks and safety measures, some questions were raised.

Concerns include an over-reliance by parents on children's own accounts about their online activity. While many children may be honest in this area, the report warns of a well-established "digital deceit" pattern in pre-teen and teen dealings with their parents.

Researchers found a low rate of parental supervision of children on social networks, with fewer than one in five (18pc) keeping a watchful eye, even though many children are below the age limit imposed by networks for usage.

A question that sought to establish parents' understanding of the online threats to children in areas such as cyberbullying, grooming, sexting, adult content, eating disorders, jihadists and identity theft revealed that 47pc were either worried that their child was exposed to cyberbullying, weren't sure if they were exposed or didn't know what the risk involved; 44pc fell in those categories in relation to adult content; and 35pc in relation to grooming.

The digital gulf is also evident in the different social media platforms used by the generations. Over half (55pc) of parents engage in Facebook, but have almost no interaction with Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat, which are popular with teens and pre-teens.

More than half of parents expressed frustration at their lack of knowledge about privacy techniques, filtering and password controls.

Alongside poor technical know-how, time is also a factor for parents trying to monitor their children's safety, with the average 15-to-16-year-old spending up to 10 hours a week online on personal devices.

Irish Independent

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