In a new study of 6–9 year olds’ online activities, AVG, one of the world’s largest providers of consumer security software, reveals the urgent need for parents to teach cyber safety.
AVG (AU/NZ) Pty Ltd, the distributor of the award-winning AVG anti-virus and Internet security software in Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, has released the latest AVG Digital Diary which tracked early childhood technology usage trends over the course of the last year.
Lloyd Borrett, Security Evangelist of AVG (AU/NZ) said: “The data in the latest wave of AVG’s research is compelling. It clearly shows that we have to start talking to our children about online safety before we hand them an internet-enabled device.
“We’re probably all guilty of handing on a mobile phone or computer to our child with the only hint of concern being for the device itself. That needs to change. We must approach our children’s first exposures to technology like we do other risky activities and instil a culture of safety. We wouldn’t teach our children to ride a bike without a helmet, or ride in a car without a seat belt.
“Likewise parents need appropriate tools for teaching young children about the risks of the Internet and to put them on a path that will seed a lifetime of good practices,” Borrett said.
Approximately half of the 6-9 year old children surveyed are regularly talking to their friends online and using social networks. Yet 58 per cent of their parents admit they are not well-informed about their children’s online social networks.
The Digital Playground, the third stage of AVG’s year-long Digital Diaries research program, further delves into the increasingly digitally-literate group of 6-to-9-year olds and their parents in Australia, New Zealand, the northern hemisphere and Japan to find that:
• Australian children average 3.9 hours online each week, which is more than the worldwide average of 3.5 hours per week.
• A staggering 60 per cent of Australian 6-to-9-year-olds use some kind of kids’ social network such as Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters or WebKinz.
• Australian children are the highest users of email at 28 per cent, against the one in five global average use.
• Forty-four per cent of Australian 6 to 9-year-olds talk to their friends on the Internet. On balance, parents of children that do talk to friends via the Internet feel that this has a positive impact on their social skills.
• Despite being under age, 12 per cent of Australian 6 to 9-year-olds are on Facebook, according to their parents. While this figure does not mean they have profiles, they are still using the functionality.
• Cyber bullying, what their parents considered objectionable or aggressive online behaviour, has been experienced by 13 per cent of Australian children surveyed.
• Across those surveyed, almost one in six 6-to-9-year-olds and one in five 8-to-9-year olds have experienced cyber bullying. The problem gets worse as the kids get older.
• Gratifyingly only 2 per cent of parents admit they do not know what they’re children are doing online, but 58 per cent are still not fully-informed nor understand their children’s online social networks.
• 62 per cent of Australian households have parental controls or safety programs in place on their family computers, which is above the global average of 56 per cent. This indicates there are still too many un-supervised online activities.
There is an added benefit to focusing on young children. By inculcating the right behaviours from the beginning, Borrett believes the next generation of young users could be instrumental in battling Internet crime.
“When we instituted car seat and seat belt laws, we may have ‘regulated’ adults but in the process we created a generation of children that grew up with the mindset that seatbelts were simply a routine part of riding in a car,” Borrett said. “I think we can do the same thing with Internet safety and very quickly drive a cultural shift that ultimately will begin to close the doors on cyber crime.”
Link to diary results
Australian digital playground infographic: (Adode PDF, 2.4 Mb)
AVG (AU/NZ) has a comprehensive range of security tips on its web site at http://www.avg.com.au/resources/security-tips/. For video tips from AVG (AU/NZ), see http://www.youtube.com/user/avgaunz.
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About the AVG “Digital Diaries” Campaign
The first stage of AVG’s Digital Diaries campaign, “Digital Birth,” covered children from birth to age two. The study, released in October 2010, found that on average infants acquire a digital identity by the age of 6 months old. Nearly a quarter (23%) of children have even had their pre-birth scans uploaded to the Internet by their parent — having a digital footprint even before birth.
The second stage, “Digital Skills,” was released in January 2011 to show that for 2-to-5-year-olds ‘tech’ skills are increasingly replacing ‘life’ skills. In fact, many toddlers could use a mouse and play a computer game, but could not ride a bike, swim or tie their shoelaces.