A new global survey by consumer cyber safety company, NortonLifeLock (NLL), has shown the general consensus among British adults to be that education around all things cyber safety should start young.
According to the study, more than four in five (85%) adults across the nation deem it ‘absolutely essential’ or ‘very important’ for parents to teach their children about cyber safety.
The survey, conducted online on behalf of NLL by The Harris Poll, drew on responses from more than 1,000 adults, finding that many rank competence in online safety as vital as more traditional life skills, such as being prepared for an emergency (82%); and basic life skills such as financial management, cooking and cleaning, and developing strong communication and problem-solving abilities (87%).
“But what’s also emerged over the past 18 months is the prominence of children’s online safety education, clearly seen as the responsibility of parents” – Sarah Uhlfelder
Sarah Uhlfelder, senior strategic director EMEA at NLL, commented: “With kids back to school this autumn, many are retrospectively recognising the powerful social, learning and development benefits of the technology that helped families cope with lockdown restrictions, isolation and home schooling. But what’s also emerged over the past 18 months is the prominence of children’s online safety education, clearly seen as the responsibility of parents.”
The vast majority (95%) of survey participants agreed that it’s more important than ever for parents to communicate to their kids the ways they can keep themselves and their information safe online. Despite this, however, three-quarters (75%) admit it can be tricky for parents to shield their children from online threats.
Another worry cited by Brits is that parents are too reliant on screens to keep their children busy (86%), with the majority (70%) saying it’s ‘absolutely essential’ or ‘very important’ for parents to manage their children’s screen time.
“Helping kids develop healthy screen time habits and an understanding of the threats or uissues they might bump into online could be quite daunting for parents today,” added Uhlfelder. “Navigating the digital world and sticking to a set screen time limit was neither part of their curriculim growing up, nor was it something their own parents taught them about.
“When it comes to online safety,” she explained, “there are no set rules that have been established for parents and their children, passed on from one generation to another.”
Parenting book author Liat Hughes Joshi suggests that families should start an open dialogue with children about cyber safety.
“Parents should focus on being positive, prepared, and present,” said Joshi. “Being positive is all about encouraging constructive conversations about cyber safety and tech usage generally, as opposed to demonising screen time. Being prepared involves taking the time to understand the technology that children engage with and its risks. This should help inform the advice parents pass on to their children and help them talk their tech language.
“Finally, it’s imperative that parents are present in their children’s digital lives. Rather than handing children a gadget and leaving them to it, parents should spend some time sitting with them, working with them, and encouraging an open dialogue about what they are doing and seeing online.”