Just a third of parents say they are confident they can protect their children when they are online

 

  • ‘Spending too much time online’ (72%) is the risk most commonly mentioned by parents in relation to their child’s internet use. This is followed closely by ‘Accessing pornographic content’ (71%); ‘Cyberbullying’ (70%) and ‘Accessing unreliable information’ (70%)
  • Survey conducted to mark Safer Internet Day – 7th February 2017 – which is promoted in Ireland by Webwise , the internet safety initiative of the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST)
  • Over 70,000 Irish students and 402 schools and organisations have already registered their Safer Internet Day activity
  • Webwise launch online Parenting Hub and publication which offers a range of helpful advice from experts including John Sharry and Colman Noctor

A new survey of parental attitudes to children’s use of the internet, launched to mark Safer Internet Day 2017 (which takes place 7th February), 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%) are confident of their ability to monitor their children’s use of the internet. But 40% also acknowledge that 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.

It is interesting to note that few parents believe the benefits of the internet outweigh its risks, reflected in further concerns about cyberbullying, accessing pornography and potential damage to their child’s reputation. And yet, at the same, most clearly recognise that using the internet is important for their education. Navigating this uneasy balance requires confident, digital parenting, something that only a minority of parents express, according to the findings in this study.

This year, over 70,000 Irish students and 404 schools and organisations registered their Safer Internet Day activity. 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.

According to the Safer Internet Day 2017: Webwise Parenting Survey:

Concerns about internet risks

  • 45% of parents say the risks to children of using the internet outweigh the benefits. This is a sharp increase on 25% in 2012.
  • Exposure to pornography (71%) and cyberbullying (70%) remain prominent risks cited by parents just as they were in 2012.
  • 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.
  • The ranking of top parental concerns remains the same irrespective of the age of the child. Some parental concerns increase with the child’s age (e.g. accessing pornographic content and damaging their reputation) while other concerns diminish as the child grows older (e.g. online grooming and sexual exploitation).
  • The concerns that worry parents the most are those that pose a direct threat to the child, e.g. cyberbullying and online grooming, despite the fact that actual incidence is rare.

Strategies for digital parenting

  • Parenting approaches towards children’s use of the internet continue to be a mix of ‘restrictive’ and ‘active’ mediation.
  • Restrictive approaches include: setting time limits (73%); use of parental controls and filters (39%); as well as monitoring (52%) and supervision (34%).
  • 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.

Attitudes towards children’s internet use

  • While three quarters of parents (74%) believe using the internet is important for their child’s education, only a quarter (25%) believe that the benefits of the internet outweigh any risks for their child.
  • Parents are quite confident about their own abilities and only 16% say their child knows more about using the internet than they do. Yet, just a third say they can protect their children when they are online.
  • 53% are confident of their ability to monitor their children’s use of the internet. However, 40% also acknowledge that it is easy for their children to use the internet without the parent knowing.
  • Parents’ confidence in monitoring what their child does online has declined from 67% in 2012 to 53% in 2017.

The focus of the Safer Internet Day campaign is to enable parents to effectively create a better internet for children by maintaining an open and honest dialogue with their children about their online lives. To enable them to do this, Webwise have launched a new dedicated online Parenting Hub: Webwise Parents and Parenting Handbook which will provide parents with easy access to practical advice and information to help address their concerns about the various issues facing their children online. Featuring expert advice from professionals including John Sharry (Child and Family Psychotherapist) and Colman Noctor (Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytical Psychotherapist), topics include:

  • Screen Time: Advice for Parents
  • At what age should I allow my child use social media?
  • Social Networking Tips
  • Dealing with Cyber-bullying
  • Talking to your child about Online Pornography
  • Sexting: Talking Points for Parents

Richard Bruton, Minister for Education and Skill

“One of the objectives of my department’s Digital Strategy for Schools is to support schools in their engagement with parents with regard to the use of ICT to support teaching and learning. In addition, the Digital Strategy promotes safe and appropriate online practices and fosters personal responsibility in the use of technology by children and young people.

The parenting hub and booklet for parents will support schools in this valuable work and is a very welcome development.”

Aine Lynch, CEO, National Parents Council Primary

“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

“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..”

The full survey can be downloaded here: https://www.webwise.ie/download/12350/

 

The full Safer Internet Day Parenting Hub: Webwise Parents and Parenting Handbook can be accessed online – http://www.webwise.ie/parents

For further information, check out www.saferinternetday.ie, webwise.ie or Webwise.ie/parents

Join the conversation at:  facebook.com/Webwise, @Webwise_Ireland on Twitter or #WebwiseParents