27 September 2023

Online kids study finds parents in the dark

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A report from the eSafety Commissioner has revealed that most parents and carers are blissly unaware of how often their teenagers encounter seriously harmful content online.

Publishing the Research Report Mind the Gap: Parental awareness of children’s exposure to risks online, eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant said children and teens were often treated in a hurtful way online and most teens had been exposed to harmful and sexual content, including content about drug taking, suicide and violent sexual material.

Ms Inman Grant said the Report also identified significant gaps in parental awareness of children’s experience and exposure to some online harms and risks.

“Many parents didn’t grow up in today’s sophisticated digital environment and the research shows they are underestimating the prevalence of children’s negative online experiences,” she said.

“Children also may not be telling their parents about experiences that are embarrassing, sensitive or concern stigmatising topics such as drug taking, suicide, self-harm and unhealthy eating.

“However, parents have an important role to play in children’s digital lives and the research shows that digital parenting needs to evolve as children grow older to better respond to children’s encounters with harmful content.”

Ms Inman Grant said the research showed almost all children surveyed took tangible action in response to a negative online experience and more than two-thirds had told their parents about the experience.

The Commissioner said while children with restrictive parents were less likely to be exposed to harmful content, they were also much less likely to engage in supportive and protective online activities.

“This suggests that parents need to strike a balance between restrictive mediation and allowing their children more freedom – but also by keeping lines of communication wide open,” she said.

Ms Inman Grant recommended parents and carers make use of eSafety’s education resources which could help families “bridge the chasm between perception and reality” and work together to help children have safer experiences online.

eSafety’s 97-page Mind the Gap Report can be accessed at this PS News link and its education resources at this link.

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