An Illawarra psychologist says he’s not surprised at revelations nearly three-quarters of Australian parents are oblivious to their children’s online activities.
A poll of 600 mums and dads across the country found 74 per cent were disconnected from their children’s online world and were not discussing potentially harmful internet practices.
According to the data, 37 per cent of parents never discussed online stranger danger, 41 per cent never discussed cyberbullying, 52 per cent never discussed sexting, while one in five parents had been warned about their child’s social media behaviour.
Dr Justin Coulson of Figtree said the study by Norton internet security went against data to be released by Intel next week, but he believed it was because there was so much diversity in the way people were trying to deal with the issue.
‘‘Depending on who your sample is, we’ve got extreme variation across the parenting sphere. There are some parents who are really getting it and the education is getting through, and these parents are saying ‘yep we’re across it, we’re talking about it’, then there are other families that are completely oblivious,’’ he said. ‘‘I also think we as parents often think we know what we’re talking about and we think we’re having the conversation but if you ask the children they just roll their eyes and laugh.’’
More than three billion people worldwide are now connected to the web, with smartphones and tablets the preferred devices – often found in the hand of youngsters. Dr Coulson said the above statistics reflected what he was seeing among his clients, and technology was the number one challenge for parents of this generation.
‘‘It’s understandable because it’s the first generation to confront it and in too many ways we’re just making it up as we go along,’’ he said.
The family psychologist stressed the importance of discussing the issues with children before they became heavily involved in social media and computers. He said eight and nine-year-olds were too often found on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter when parents should impose age restrictions until they were at least 13.
‘‘Once they’re on social media they start friending adults, they start friending sister’s besties and their big brother’s friends, and they begin to be exposed to all kinds of content that is potentially quite harmful – certainly content that is developmentally not appropriate for an eight-year-old.’’
Dr Coulson recommended also discussing how to act appropriately online, and how they might respond when being bullied or pressured – such as someone trying to coerce them into sending nude photos.