Children meeting strangers online parents’ main fear

Meeting dangerous people online, rather than watching pornography, is the greatest fear parents have when their children surf the web.

Children meeting strangers online  parents’ main fear

The research, carried out by the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland and Hotline.ie found that parents now fear their children being in direct contact with dangerous people online far more than they fear them watching pornography.

Similar research carried out in 2001, for the Government’s Internet Advisory Board, found access to porn as the top concern of parents. However, this latest research has discovered that, not only has pornography dropped to second place, but the percentage of parents citing it as their first concern has dropped by over half — from 44% of parents in 2001 to just 20% this year.

In a clear sign of the increase of the internet threat to children, antisocial behaviour/(cyber)bullying is now the third main concern of parents at 16% — up from just 6% in 2001.

The study also highlighted a number of aspects of online usage within their control that parents fail to recognise could lead to online vulnerability and exposure to danger.

For example:

* On a scale of concerns from one to 10 (one being highest), parents ranked the activity of children sharing inappropriate content among themselves sixth and using location-based services like geolocators that can pinpoint one’s exact location, eighth;

* Over 40% of parents admitted to not using any parental control software;

* Over 60% of parents do not use parental control software for smartphones — despite smartphones being the most used device by Irish children for accessing the internet on a daily basis;

* Three out of 10 parents said they did not monitor their children’s online activities at all.

Despite the above, 74% of all respondents selected ‘parents’ as the group with primary reasonability for protecting children when they are online.

Paul Durrant, CEO of ISPAI and general manager of Hotline.ie, said he was surprised that cyberbullying did not feature higher among parental concerns.

“It is interesting to note the rise of anti-social behaviour and (cyber)bullying from one of the lowest in 2001 to becoming the third highest concern this year,” he said. “I am really surprised by this as I would have thought cyberbullying would come out way on top due to media coverage of high profile incidents on the likes of Twitter, Facebook, etc, and with so many children being victim to texting and social media bullying in every community.”

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