Safeguarding Kids Against Online Strangers

  • 4 in 10 parents closely monitor kids’ internet usage
  • 25 percent of kids spend up to seven hours on Internet
  • One third of parents think their kids are responsible online

Nearly one in five parents say they, or someone in their family, have been contacted by someone they don’t know on the internet or via mobile phone texts, according to Telstra Cyber Safety research released today.

The research, conducted by Newspoll, revealed nearly nine in ten parents of children aged 10-17 believed these approaches may be dangerous, but without any qualification as to why they think so.

With children preparing for the spring school holidays, Dr Martyn Wild, Managing Director of SuperClubsPLUS Australia, a cyber-safety social learning network, said the results highlighted the need for parents and children to protect their online identities and to take precautions when contacted by people they don’t know online or via text messages.

“The online world is a great place to learn new things and connect with other people yet, like every aspect of what we do, there can be risks”, said Dr Wild. “We tell children not to talk to strangers and the same rules should apply in the online world too. The research shows many parents are taking responsible measures to supervise their children’s use of the internet, but tend to become ‘more relaxed’ as their children grow older.”

Four in ten parents whose child uses the internet at home say they ‘closely monitor’ the websites their child accesses, one-third say they ‘keep an eye on it’ while nearly one-quarter say they ‘tend to be fairly relaxed about it and trust their child to be sensible’.

“The school holidays provide the perfect opportunity for parents to spend time with their kids and to better understand their interests in the digital world and how familiar they are with potential online risks,” recommends Darren Kane, Telstra’s Officer of Internet Trust & Safety. “[Our] Cyber Safety research shows one quarter of parents estimate their child spends at least seven hours a week (the equivalent of an hour a day) on social networking sites like Facebook and this is likely to increase over the school holidays.

“So it’s an ideal time for parents to set rules about online use and to set an example themselves about appropriate online behaviour. It can be as simple as thinking twice before posting a photo or video on social networking sites or making sure you use the privacy settings available,” Kane said.

Tips for safeguarding against online strangers:

  • Keep your private information private – do not give out personal details online such as your birthday and address, even on social networking sites.
  • Only publish information you are comfortable with everyone seeing. Anything you do, say, share or post online is potentially available to anyone to see even if you delete it.
  • Be careful about talking to people online. Not everyone is who they say they are.
  • Don't become 'friends' with people you don't know in the real world.
  • If you plan to meet someone you have only met online, take a friend and meet in a public place during daylight hours.