Norton reveals parents caught unaware of children’s online activities

Parents living today know all too well that their little ones will probably know more about technology and the online world than they do, but a report from Symantec this week not only confirms this, it also suggests many parents are in the dark.

In a survey that saw 600 Aussie parents get asked the tough questions about their children’s activities online, Symantec — owners of the “Norton” security brand and its various internet security solutions — found that 74 percent of parents were “oblivious” to what their children were doing online.

This one is a bit of a complicated topic, with education being key, and parents needing to be open minded and able to talk to their little ones about what happens online, and what they’re actively doing.

“From websites to apps to games and online communities, children have access to a ton of content that can affect them both positively and negatively,” said Symantec’s Mark Gorrie.

“Children are interacting online at a younger age and more than ever before and it’s impossible for parents to watch over their kids every second they’re online. Parents need to arm their children with the knowledge and skills they need to use the Internet positively without compromising their privacy and security.”

Unfortunately, that’s not totally happening at the moment, with Symantec’s report revealing that 37 percent of parents have never discussed the dangers of online strangers, 41 percent never uttering a word about what cyberbullying is, and 44 percent not talking about privacy settings on social networks.

In fact, while parents are probably aware of the dangers of social networks, and how education is key to limit those dangers, almost one in three Aussie parents admitted that their children had joined up to a social network despite not meeting the minimum age requirement.

“There are simple steps parents can take to protect their children online,” said Gorrie, adding that “having an open conversation with children about their online habits can go a long way in protecting children online.”

To help with this, Norton suggests a few questions that parents can ask their children to get the conversation going, such as what their friends are doing online, what their favourite websites and apps are, and if anything has been said online to make them feel uncomfortable.

By having this conversation — even by starting it — parents and children should be able to communicate openly about what they’re doing and discuss their online lives in a way that helps both grow.

If that’s not enough, though, Norton has come together with author and child rights activist Tara Moss to be the company’s first “Norton Family Ambassador” in Australia to help inform parents of the communication problems in the family.

“Security, privacy and online ethics are now a necessary part of parenting, just like road safety and safe sex education,” said Moss. “Kids using connected devices in the comfort of the family home may look harmless, but activity online has consequences and impacts beyond the home and beyond that moment.

“As with anything else, education and guidance are needed. To some, the Internet is not part of the real world, but it is. Things said online are sent by real people and received by real people, and when the recipient is a child, unpleasant online exchanges can be more damaging.”

Moss says that this report shows the “lack of awareness” parents have in education children about security problems and privacy, and that while they may not have grown up with the online world as children are now currently doing, they too need to be aware of the “potential impacts of online activity”.

“While schools and governments have invested in teaching children safe Internet practices, it is no longer enough,” she said. “Parents need to get informed about what they can do to protect their children and take an active role in their children’s understanding of privacy and online ethics, as well as their online well-being.”