Parenting in the Digital Age: The Concerns and the Realities

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More than a quarter of Australian children have engaged in risky behaviour online, with three percent of children having arranged to meet an online stranger in person. However, one in five parents are unconcerned about the possibility of online grooming.
The survey, titled “Keeping Kids Safe Online” was commissioned by security software company ESET and conducted by Lonergan Research. 1,053 Australian parents and their children aged five-16 years old were asked about their online behaviour.
Information was gathered in regards to both online risky behaviour with strangers, as well as cyber bullying amongst children. The survey found that:

  • 28 percent of children have engaged in risky online behaviour with a stranger
  • Three percent of children have arranged to meet an online stranger in person, representing approximately 85,565 children in Australia 
  • Of those who have engaged in risky behaviour online, girls are more likely to have connected with a stranger on social media (47 percent of girls and 36 percent of boys)
  • 69 percent of children aged between 13-16 know someone who has been bullied online

Risky behaviour was classified as engaging with a person online who children have not met in person before, including giving personal information, sharing photos, and communicating with them.
Children who access the internet from a shared device are much less likely to have engaged in risky online behaviour. 15 percent of those using a shared device reported engaging in risky behaviour, as opposed to 38 percent for those with their own mobile phone or computer.
Australian children – more online than ever

The research showed that children spend an average of 114 minutes online per day, (57 minutes for five-eight year olds, 107 minutes for nine-12 year olds, and 175 minutes for 13-16 year olds).
23 percent of children reported spending three or more hours online each day, with 26 percent of children in Regional Australia compared to 21 percent of city-based children.
Parents’ responses showed that they are most concerned about children accidentally seeing adult material (84 percent) followed by children downloading viruses. Security of personal or financial details caused the least concern, with 30 percent of parents saying they were not concerned. 

Education is the key

Australian parents showed overwhelming support for cyber safety being taught as part of the school curriculum, with 96 percent of parents believing it should be taught in schools. On average, parents believe that teachers should be discussing the topic with children every 27 days. 

Righard Zwienenberg, Senior Research Fellow at digital protection company, ESET said “Children are spending more and more time online as we become a more digitised society. While banning children from the internet to keep them safe has long since stopped being an option, there are many proactive ways in which parents can prevent kids from being involved in difficult situations."

These include:

  • Installing a parental control to lock your kids out of potentially harmful websites
  • Using a shared computer in a shared space at home, such as a desktop in the study or living room
  • Monitoring your children’s’ activities on the internet


“However, the most effective approach is to focus on educating children and including them in the solution. We should encourage kids to talk to parents or teachers about their online experiences, while we in return teach them about risky behaviour and how to stay safe while they enjoy the web. Education and awareness should play the biggest role in safeguarding our youth against any potential dangers.”

Looking for Help?

There are many resources available for parents or educators who want to begin educating children about cyber safety. The National Cyber Security Alliance provides free tips for families and educators, as well as businesses. The Australian Government also provides free resources, such as Budd:e, Cybersmart, and Stay Smart Online.

Zwienenberg explained: “While it’s important to be aware of the dangers children face online, we must also keep in mind the benefits that the internet brings. It has become an integral part of children’s lives, who rely on it for schoolwork, socialising, news, and general entertainment.

“Proper digital education is vital to making sure kids enjoy the internet safely, with both schools and parents having a role to play. Taking the time to teach kids about the internet will not only make them safer, but make them better digital citizens in the future” concluded Zwienenberg.

In September 2015, ESET Smart Security’s Parental Control feature was given the Approved Parental Control Product award for its list of functionalities in five separate single-product reports by AV-Comparatives, an independent testing organisation. The reviews cover filtering, time limit controls, application controls and usability. 

About ESET

Since 1987, ESET® has been developing award-winning security software that now helps over 100 million users to Enjoy Safer Technology. Its broad security product portfolio covers all popular platforms and provides businesses and consumers around the world with the perfect balance of performance and proactive protection. The company has a global sales network covering 180 countries, and regional offices in Bratislava, San Diego, Singapore and Buenos Aires. For more information visit or follow us on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter.