Child online.
Child online.

Safer Internet Day: Guide for parents to protect children

Three out of 10 teenagers have been contacted by strangers online, and a Lennox Head expert is sharing tips for parents wanting to protect their children on Saf`er Internet Day.

Teenagers are spending around two hours a day online and have four different social media services, according to new research released by the eSafety Commissioner, to coincide with Safer Internet Day.

"Our research shows that while teens' increased use of technology offers many benefits, there is a distinct downside - dealing with negative online experiences such as unwanted contact and cyber-bullying", Australia's eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said.

Lennox Head resident and Safe on Social CEO, Kirra Pendergast, said it's never too early to talk to children and teens about safety online.

"I speak at schools around Australia to children from kindy all the way through," she said.

"Sometimes you see children at cafes on smart phones or tablets playing small games connected to the internet, like Roblox, and that's a game that has huge problems with predatory behaviour, for instance.

"I ask (when presenting at schools) to students from Year 4 onwards who has been asked to be someone's boyfriend or girlfriend online, most of the room would put their hand up."

Ms Pendergast said parents must ensure devices provided by schools have the correct safety settings when operated at home.

"Blended learning at schools include devices which are all completely safe," she said.

"Kids are protected behind firewalls when they are at school with devices, but something we saw happen during (the COVID lockdowns) was that those devices go home and parents think their child is still protected, but they are not, because the parents don't know how to put in parental controls.

"If they haven't flicked the profanity filters on Google or if they haven't put it on restricted mode on YouTube, a 5 year-old can be bombarded with pornography and things like that."


Research results:

• Teenagers used an average of four different social media services, with newer services such as TikTok gaining ground.

• Just over four in 10 teenagers had at least one negative online experience in the six months to September 2020, with three in 10 having experienced unwanted contact from a stranger.

• Two in 10 teenagers reported being sent unwanted inappropriate content, such as pornography or violent content.

• Nine in 10 teenagers sought to build positive online relationships after experiencing negative online behaviour themselves.

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