AVG Technologies has launched the findings of its research report with Plymouth University entitled “Parents, Schools and the Digital Divide.” As parents struggle to keep pace with technology, 86 percent agree an online safety assessment would identify knowledge gaps and enable parents to better educate children about staying safe online. The findings of the report with 2,000 UK parents reinforces the importance placed on online safety with more than half (52 percent) of all parents making school selection decisions based in part on a school’s ability to teach online safety. Of that number, more than one in ten (13 percent) said online safety credentials would be “the” deciding factor if selecting a new school now.
Tony Anscombe, AVG’s senior security evangelist, comments: “Despite their confidence, our research shows that parents clearly need help to stay ahead of how children are using the Internet. We’re calling on the government and forward-thinking schools to support our recommendation and develop an easy to use assessment for parents, effectively extending e-safety training to parents. Just as parents agree to an internet usage policy with a child’s school, parents should be tasked with truly understanding what they’re signing up to and how their children are actually using the internet, both at home and in the school.”
Online safety education – whose responsibility is it?
Reinforcing the importance placed on e-safety, an overwhelming number of parents (95 percent) agree with online safety education being mandatory in schools and nearly nine out of ten (89 percent) agree that the government needs to do more when it comes to teaching children right from wrong when it comes to safe use of the Internet.
Despite this, nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of parents are adamant that the ultimate responsibility for online safety education falls to them and while 92 percent of all parents are confident about their own ability to teach online safety, AVG’s study exposes a widening gap between ‘perceived’ and ‘actual’ knowledge, reinforcing the value of a simple assessment for parents to help bridge this gap.
Perception versus reality
* More than half (56 percent) of parents with children in primary and secondary school, and 42 percent of parents with teenagers, have not had a discussion with children about sexual online adult content despite evidence that the majority of 14 year old boys and many teenagers have accessed this content
* One in ten parents of teenagers who haven’t discussed sexual adult content online believe their child is “too young” for the conversation, whilst nearly a quarter (23 percent) simply “haven’t got around to it”
* When it comes to other online threats, nine out of ten (89 percent) of all parents with children in primary and secondary school believe their child has not been involved in cyberbullying or sexting (as either the perpetrator or victim)
* For teenagers specifically, 86 percent of parents are not aware of their teenager having experienced this issue, despite evidence highlighting these as the most frequent Internet issues for children
* This evidence suggests parents’ staggering confidence in their own IT knowledge is misplaced, with many still in the dark when it comes to how to educate their children on staying safe online
Anscombe comments further: “We know parents take responsibility of online safety seriously; half of us base school selection on this and we’re asking the government to do more to support teachers and parents. Yet we’re not living up to the standards we’re setting by avoiding conversations about exposure to explicit adult content, privacy or other Internet-related threats. It comes as no surprise then that nearly 90 percent of parents aren’t aware of whether their child has been exposed to cyberbullying or sexting - two of the most common Internet risks facing children. We believe asking parents to sign up to a simple online safety assessment when completing a school’s Internet usage policy would give parents the starting point they need to further improve their own IT knowledge.
“With a good understanding of the threats facing children, parents can make informed decisions about the right safety technologies and settings to put in place. Complementing this with age-appropriate guidance and safety rules will ensure children can use the Internet safely and freely,” concluded Anscombe.
Andy Phippen, professor of social responsibility at Plymouth University comments: “Safe Internet use should be top of mind for all parents; sexting, cyberbullying, exposure to explicit content and other internet-related issues are only on the increase. To protect our children from these dangers both parents and schools need to continually work to stay ahead of how children use the Internet and of the relevant guidance we need to provide. An online safety assessment could give parents an indication of their strengths and weaknesses and working in partnership with the school, they could identify areas they need to brush up on, accessing helpful advice and learning materials.”