One in five children under 12 admit to having bad online experiences in lockdown

While one in five under 12s claim to have had negative experiences, 86% say they are too scared to tell their parents

More than one in five (21%) children admit to having had bad online experiences during the COVID-19 lockdown, research by Avast has revealed.

Surveying results from 1,003 respondents in June this year, the cybersecurity company hoped to raise awareness of the various internet threats children face every day.

Of those who cited negative online experiences, 72% claimed to have been a recipient of unkind messages; 72% had received unsolicited and inappropriate content; and 71% had received unwanted contact from a stranger. On top of this, 58% had accidentally downloaded a virus onto their device, and 67% had received a malicious video call.

While 42% of parents felt they are now able to have open and honest conversations about internet safety, almost nine in 10 (86%) of the children surveyed said they were too scared to tell their guardians about the negativity they had encountered online. Children’s most commonly-cited reasons for not seeking help were: they didn’t want a friend to get in trouble (14%), they felt embarrassed (13%) or they were put off by fear (11%).

A further 9% of Avast’s child respondents said they didn’t want to lose access to their smartphone, laptop or tablet as a result of their bad experience, with a further 9% claiming they did not know that the incident or content they encountered was harmful.

Kate Dyson, founder of Motherload Community, is working alongside Avast to raise awareness for parents and provide useful advice. “I don’t think there is a parent in the land who hasn’t had to resort to digital babysitting over the past six months,” said Dyson. “There have been some huge positives for parents and kids coming out of this. However, the fact so many children have admitted to having negative online experiences and yet lack the confidence to talk to their parents about it, clearly shows that this is an issue we must address.”

Nick Viney, SVP and GM, Avast Partner BU, commented: “Encouraging children to be digitally adept from a young age is critical, and that includes learning safe online behaviours. With a few simple strategies in place, we believe parents can encourage a positive online experience for their children in a safe and secure way.

“Parents should maintain an open conversation with their children and check in on their digital activities as they would ask about a day at school, and engage with them to understand the activities they regularly enjoy online like content, games and social networks. Balance parental concern with teaching appropriate online habits, smart choices and continued family communication.”

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