Child Online Safety Puts Aussie Parents Under Pressure

Research conducted online amongst Australian parents finds two-thirds of parents feel guilty about their kids’ internet use

A national survey of more than 1,000 adults with children aged up to 18 years found more than two-thirds (70%) of parents report feeling anxious and guilty for not knowing what their children get up to online. A further 7-in-10 Aussie parents also admit to letting their kids browse the internet unmonitored.

The same parents (73%) also reported feeling out of their depth when it comes to educating their children on internet safety. While many parents feel at sea, when it came to seeking advice on navigating kids’ internet safety the survey found two-thirds turn to their partner (33%), friend (15%) or family (9%), and good-old Google1 (20%).

Child psychologist Dr Kimberley O’Brien acknowledged the proper management of smartphone and internet use – and at times, misuse – can be an unexplored territory for modern-day parents.

“Opening the lines of communication between parent and child is pivotal. A close relationship encourages free-flowing dialogue and the opportunity for children to express their worries and concerns, especially when it comes to cyber safety”.

The survey also unveiled parents’ online concerns, which saw them rank too much time playing video games (30%), viewing violent videos online and exposure to bullying (26%, respectively) as the top three. Interestingly, a relatively minor amount of those polled (6%) went on to cite viewing pornography as a concern.

“Even the most responsible parents report that constantly monitoring their child’s online activity is a massive challenge. This leaves many parents feeling guilty and uncertain about what their child may have been exposed to without their knowledge,” Dr O’Brien said.

Asked to nominate the top concern when it came to their children’s development, 59% cited physical and mental health, 20% education, 12% social media use and the effects of long-term technology – and 10% bullying.2

Furthermore, almost 6-in-10 respondents confirmed the use of an online monitoring tool to facilitate safer internet consumption – and, only 2% of those polled noting they ‘disagree with monitoring’ kid’s internet use.

The nation’s parents also agreed 10–13 years was the most popular age (48%) at which to purchase a child their first smartphone (or tablet), followed by 5–9 years (24%) and 14–16 years (15%).3

About the Report

  • FamilyEye is part of Yomojo – an Australian mobile and broadband service provider and tech company.
  • Pure Profile commissioned research on behalf of FamilyEye®. The research was conducted online in March 2019, among a sample size of 1012 Australian parents with children aged up to 18 years (representative by state and gender).
  • 1 Reported as ‘online sources’ – breakdown includes: parenting websites (47%), forums (18%), social media channels (18%), news media (10%), other (6.5%) and celebrities and digital influencers (0.5%). A further 11% turn to parenting experts (doctors and child psychologists).
  • 2 6% reported ‘other’.
  • 3 10% reported under 5 years, while 3% reported over 16 years.

Dr Kimberley O’Brien is a parenting, child health and mental health expert and co-founder of the Quirky Kid Clinic.

Dr Kimberley O’Brien’s Internet Safety Tips for Parents 

  • Use a parental-control app. Set boundaries by using a parental-control app, eg FamilyEye by Yomojo, to help track, monitor and protect your child’s safety online.
  • Be consistent when it comes to online house rules. It is important for parents to live by the same set of rules and disciplines when it comes to online use. Have regular conversations with your partner to ensure alignment on values and consistency of message. This united front will help children play by your guidelines.
  • Set limits on your own screen use. And don’t forget, children are constantly learning from what they see. In the home, display what healthy internet and smartphone use looks like – and this behaviour also gives you more uninterrupted time together.
  • Keep children’s laptops and phones where you can see them. Ask kids to keep their devices visible – using them in the family living room – rather than in their bedrooms or private study areas.
  • Be mindful when children are on playdates. Remember, while you may have your own rules at home, these may not apply when your child is in the company of extended family or their friends. Check-in with the other parents and have an open discussion about boundaries around internet use – before the playdate.