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New research from Telstra has shown Australian children are on online for an average of two hours each day, among the highest Internet usage rates in the world.

Telstra’s General Manager for Digital Inclusion Jill Riseley said that with so many children now online so often it was important for parents to teach their kids how to be good digital citizens.

To mark Safer Internet Day Telstra released a survey of over 1,000 Australian parents with children 10-17 year old, about their family’s Internet usage. It was conducted by Jigsaw Strategic Research on behalf of Telstra in January 2013, and shows the top three concerns for parents of children using the Internet were protecting personal information, exposure to inappropriate content and cyberbullying.

“The research shows that on average kids are spending 14 hours online a week and the family home is the most common place kids are doing this,” Riseley said. “We found that three quarters of parents have rules for their children’s Internet use with access to certain websites, use of certain apps or games and limits on the amount of online time spent each day all being regulated in some way.

“While these rules will help protect children from inappropriate content and create a balance between participating online and being active during the day, these days online safety is more than just using security software and passwords, it involves the actual ethics of being online and respect for others.”

Riseley said the best way for parents to teach children respect for others and protect them against cyber-bullying was to find out what they did on social media sites and be involved in their online world. It was also important to remind children that saying things online was the same as saying things in real life. She said that on the tenth anniversary of Safer Internet Day there are six simple things parents could do to keep their children safe online:

  • Be involved – talk to your kids and find out what they do in their digital lives. Try out your kids’ favourite apps and websites.
  • Model good behaviour – Set a positive example for your kids by turning off your devices and practicing safe and responsible behaviour.
  • Set time limits – establish clear rules about the amount of time kids can spend on their devices each day
  • Encourage a balance – support your kids’ offline activities
  • Play respectfully – Remind kids not to say mean things. If they wouldn’t do it offline, don’t do it online!
  • Watch your steps – remind kids that what you do online today can be used against you tomorrow. So keep it private or don’t do it – a digital footprint has consequences.

The research also revealed that crowd sourcing is very important. Family and friends are the top source of information for parents, followed by government websites and schools. It also found that one quarter of children have seen something their parents wish they hadn’t.

“Sitting down with your child to talk to them about cyber-safety essentials such as how to be respectful online, when to share personal information online, handling approaches from cyber bullies or strangers online and applying social network privacy settings will make parents and kids online experience that much better,” Riseley said.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire and editor of sister publication CommsWire. He is also founder and Research Director of Connection Research, a market research and analysis firm specialising in the convergence of sustainable, digital and environmental technologies. He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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