New research from ESET shows the depth of the problem among the UK’s schoolchildren, where 50% of kids aged 9 to 16 have had no formal internet safety training in school. They probably get little training outside of school either, since one-in-four parents admit they lack the confidence to initiate a conversation – believing, possibly incorrectly, that their children have a better understanding of security than themselves.
Mark James, technical director at ESET UK, calls it the taboo subject of the modern world. “Online safety is the modern day ‘birds and bees’ conversation; it evokes dread and nervousness in parents who feel ill-prepared to teach their child the dos and don’ts of the online world. The research shows that two thirds of parents believe it’s primarily their role to educate children about Internet safety, above schools, the police or the Government, however their own online behaviors are questionable.”
It does indeed invoke a similar cat-and-mouse approach, with parents watching and children hiding. According to the research, three-quarters of parents monitor their children’s online activity, with 23% doing so without their children’s knowledge. The children, however, may not be so naive about their parents' behavior. Forty percent of children clear their browsing history to keep it hidden, and almost a third have created online accounts they keep hidden from their parents.
For themselves, the majority of children (84%) believe they should be able to browse the internet without parental oversight – and that includes 70% of those aged between 9 and 16. But believing you are safe and being safe without any formal instruction are two different things.
“The Internet has brought a tremendous benefit to every aspect of daily life,” comments James, “and we want to encourage people of all ages to engage, explore, learn and experience the value it can bring – however education is fundamental to keep everyone armed with the knowledge of how to browse safely.”
That is the purpose behind the new CyberSmart Awards, “to recognize individuals and organizations across the UK that are leading initiatives to educate others about Internet safety.”