Girl with an iPad

Safer Internet Day report shows parents wary of the Web

Image: Stockfresh

7 February 2017

A new survey of parental attitudes to children’s use of the Internet, launched to mark Safer Internet Day 2017, has highlighted the concerns and attitudes of parents in relation to their children’s use of the Internet.

The survey, conducted by Webwise, revealed three quarters of parents (74%) believe using the Internet is important for their child’s education, yet only a quarter (25%) believe that the benefits of the Internet outweigh any risks for their child. Furthermore, parents are quite confident about their own abilities and only 16% say their child knows more about using the internet than they do. At the same time, just a third say they can protect their children when they are online.

Half of the parents surveyed (53%) said they are confident of their ability to monitor their children’s use of the Internet. But 40% also acknowledge it is easy for their children to use the Internet without them knowing. Parents’ confidence in monitoring what their child does online has declined from 67% in 2012 to 53% in 2017.

Four main risks stand out in equal numbers as the most serious concerns for parents: cyberbullying; spending too much time online; online grooming or sexual exploitation, and accessing pornographic content. Exposure to pornography (71%) and cyberbullying (70%) remain prominent risks cited by parents just as they were in 2012.

Few parents believe the benefits of the Internet outweigh its risks, reflected in further concerns about cyberbullying, accessing inappropriate material and potential damage to their child’s reputation. However, most recognise that using the Internet is important for their education.

Other concerns highlights by the Webwise survey found that parents are adopting different approaches to monitoring their children’s online behaviour, adopting either a ‘restrictive’ or ‘active’ mediation.

Restrictive approaches include setting time limits (73%); use of parental controls and filters (39%); as well as monitoring (52%) and supervision (34%).

Some 68% of parents who responded also use ‘enabling’ or ‘active’ strategies including regularly talking with their children about what they do online. This is an increase from 62% since the 2012 Survey of Parental Attitudes.

Aine Lynch, CEO, National Parents Council Primary, said: “A combination of parenting approaches including agreeing boundaries with children, modelling good behaviour, and using technical measures, is likely to be most effective in promoting positive use of the internet by children. Correspondingly, there is a need to support a diversity of approaches. Impartial, up-to-date information from parenting experts, educators, and mental health professionals is important. So too are parental controls and information and advice for parents on how best to use them.”

Ciara O’Donnell, National Director, Professional Development Service for Teachers, said: “That often repeated dictum of parents as prime educators has a serious meaning. Parents are the first and most powerful educators of children and have a pivotal role to play in guiding them in the safe and responsible use of the internet in order that they can enjoy all the wonderful opportunities that online activity can provide.”

Safer Internet Day is promoted in Ireland by the Webwise internet safety initiative of the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) and aims to educate and raise awareness about protecting children online, so that they can responsibly enjoy the benefits of the internet, without compromising their safety and privacy.

TechCentral Reporters

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