As this week ushers in the 2013 Child Internet Safety Summit, we are once again reminded that the internet is not always a safe place for children. But the question of what can be done about it remains largely unanswered.
First of all, who’s responsible for educating children about online threats? Should this begin with at school or through government initiatives? Or is this an issue for parents to be tackling at home?
To find out, AVG recently conducted a survey of some 2,000 parents in the UK about their attitudes towards internet safety, and the roles of educational institutions, government and family in teaching children about risks associated with the World Wide Web.
The case for schools:
The case for schools in the UK to teach their pupils about internet safety isn’t entirely without premise. After all, sex education (another topic parents can have trouble discussing) has been on national curricula since the late 90’s.
But is internet safety really so important that it should be obligatory in schools?
Well, our survey results indicate that 95 percent of parents absolutely think so; and over half (52 percent) of them say it would be a ‘deciding factor’ in choosing a school for their child.
As the umbrella concept of internet safety covers so much more than just adult content, as some people might assume, schools have a key role in helping children learn how to interact with each other online. For issues such as cyberbullying, schools have the ability to help much in the way that they have with traditional bullying.
The case for parents:
Similarly to many of life’s lessons, the role of parents is paramount in teaching children about certain values and morals. AVG’s research indicates that parents in the UK understand this, with66 percent of them saying that responsibility for internet safety education ultimately lies with parents.
However, the research indicates that perhaps things aren’t quite that easy. Despite over 90 percent of UK parents claiming they feel confident teaching their child about internet safety, the numbers indicate that they might not be as well prepared as they’d like to believe.
Over half (56 percent) of parents of primary and secondary school children are yet to have ‘the discussion’ about internet safety and, shockingly, 42 percent of parents of teens still haven’t had it.
Another worrying statistic is that 86 percent of parents with teens are not aware that their child has come across any cyberbullying or sexting, despite evidence highlighting these as the most frequent Internet issues for children.
It’s clear that parents are going to need some tools to help them tackle this particular problem.
The case for government:
Much like it has done to tackle other social issues, such as targeting juvenile obesity with healthy living and active childhood programs, maybe it’s time the government took notice of a very real issue.
Simple information packs and online tools that can help parents chose for themselves which limits and restrictions to enforce would be a good place to start.
In fact, AVG’s research suggests that as many as 86 percent of parents would confident in educating their child about internet safety if they could get an educational pack to help them prepare and understand the issues and risks for themselves.
What is certain is that 89 percent of parents feel that the government should be doing more to educate children about internet safety.