What supervision should families have in place? These are the sorts of questions I get asked a lot as a Cyber Safety Advocate and while there is no right or wrong answer, there are a number of valid views amongst industry experts, medical specialists and researchers.
In my opinion, the key is to ensuring that regardless of ages, kids are accessing the internet with adequate protection in place, and that’s the responsibility for us, the parents, to ensure that we are providing a safe environment for our kids.
There is no doubt that mobile technology and the internet has introduced many exciting opportunities into our children’s lives, from education to games to social engagement. However, it has also introduced a range of new threats and dangers – cyberbullying, sexting, pornography and violence – right into the home.
In August 2016, Family Zone released a Cyber Safety Report after interviewing over 800 Australian families. They asked families about their relationship with technology, which helped gain valuable insight into what is happening across homes in Australia and what challenges and issues Australian families are facing when it comes to technology and their kids.
As a snap shot, some of the findings were both interesting and some concerning;
- Children are starting to spend time online from as young as one year old
- More than half (53%) of Australian kids are actively online by the age of seven
- Three quarters (76%) of Australian parents said they were unsure or unaware if their children have accessed pornography or violent content online
- While almost three-quarters (74%) of Australian parents claim they know how to protect their children on their digital devices, the majority still had no parental controls in place to monitor content or limit screen time.
It is a worrying combination; unrestricted access to the internet and lack of parental controls are creating a generation of children who are accessing adult content from a young age, which can have a devastating effect on young minds.
The Cyber Safety Report supports that there is a misalignment between what parents think their children are doing online versus what they are actually doing online. But it is not always deliberate, especially when it comes to younger children.
On many occasions, inappropriate content is accessed by young children entering the “tween” phase and accidentally stumbling across inappropriate content using innocent search terms, which have adult connotations; for example, common search terms that frequently turn up adult content include “wet and wild”, “pussycat”, “pussycat dolls”, “big girls’ toys” and “big puppies”.
The rise of mobile phone use for children and the amount of time kids spend on their digital devices is another area of concern for Australian families. Results from the Family Zone Cyber Safety Report showed that the number one concern parents have in regards to kids using digital technology is that they are missing out on physical exercise and playtime. The second and third top concerns were children accessing pornography and being targeted by pedophiles.
With an ever changing digital landscape, it is easy to see why parents are anxious and have concerns.
For parents with teenagers, I strongly encourage an open dialogue about online activity and it’s not about stopping access, but more protecting them from excessive screen time and disturbing content because as your kids get older, they are increasingly susceptible to a myriad of online dangers and addictions.
Protecting your family from the dangers associated with technology can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. There are some helpful systems available on the market that can help look after your kids both in and out of the home. If you’d like to find out more, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.cybermumaus.com
Cyber Mum Australia.