Only 20% of parents' monitor childrens' web use

Less than one fifth of Irish parents supervise their children’s social media activity, according to research that highlights the digital divide between generations.

Only 18% keeps a watch on their kids’ interaction with social networks, suggest the findings from a survey of 900 Irish parents. It was conducted by the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre at Dublin City University (DCU).

The study reveals an over-reliance on children giving parents an accurate account of their online activity, but particularly in relation to social media.

And while more than half of parents have accounts on networks like Facebook, they were found to have almost no interaction with those preferred by teenagers and pre-teens, such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.

But children are becoming savvy from a younger age, with 52% of those aged six to eight having internet access, and 21% able to download or install software.

The authors from DCU said that many children are honest about their online activities. But a well-established ‘digital deceit’ pattern in how pre-teens and teens deal with their parents can leave them vulnerable online, particularly to cyber-bullying.

“Our research underscores the growing challenges and pressing need to create protections around children from cyber-bullying,” said anti-bullying centre director James O’Higgins.

His team is developing an online tool to combat the phenomenon in conjunction with the EU Erasmus Parentsnet project.

“While many of the parents surveyed said they had talked to their children about the areas of concern — exposure to inappropriate or toxic content, cyberbullying, safety, and security — the vast majority still had very real concerns about their children’s levels of vulnerability online,” he said.

More than half of parents expressed a frustrating lack of knowledge about privacy techniques, filtering, and password controls.

Mr O’Higgins said parents who have concerns about internet safety should talk and listen to their children about how they use the internet and social media. He also advises parents:

  • To set up email and chat accounts with children, know their screen names and passwords, and that children should not include personal information in online profiles.
  • Do not be afraid to ask children if they have ever been involved in cyber-bullying, as a bully, victim or bystander.
  • Tell children you will not blame them if they are cyber-bullied, emphasise their computer privileges will not be taken away, which is the main reason kids do not tell adults when they are victimised.

The results are issued ahead of Safer Internet Day tomorrow, and follow a recent TV documentary and other media coverage about the case of 14-year-old Breck Bednar, killed in England two years ago this month.

He was groomed through a seemingly-innocent online gaming group by 18-year-old Lewis Daynes, who passed himself off to young gamers as a US-based technology firm owner.

Despite Breck’s mother raising concerns with police that he was really a young man in Essex, Daynes kept secret contact with her son.

He killed the schoolboy after convincing him to come to his home under the pretence he was ill and wanted to give him control of his company.


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