A very important part of Child Protection is the guarantee that children may use the Internet in safety.
A recent survey conducted by Lonergan Research and commissioned by Gizmo (a leading home computer support service) demonstrated the overall naivety of children when it comes to the Internet.
First released in June this year the survey results are still very important when considering all aspects of child protection; after-all any method we use to categorise types of abuse will almost always cut across actual instances.
The survey produced some rather obvious statistics:
Almost one in three (32%) children have seen images of naked people
29% have seen violent images
29% have played games rated MA15+
29% have been contacted by someone they don't know online
17% have been asked for personal details
14% have been teased or bullied online
7% have had someone post pictures or videos of them without their permission
While most parents are aware when children use the internet for study and homework purposes, parental awareness is lower for many other activities. Of the children who post videos online only half (47%) of their parents are not aware they do this.
Parents are, however concerned about their children's activities:
The main concerns are coming into contact with sexually explicit material (89%), being targeted by online predators (86%), and being infected by viruses and spyware (86%).
These observations are oddly contrasted by responses to some of the other questions in the survey.
22% of parents have never installed or checked parental controls on their home computers. Just one in four (26%) parents always install parental control.
Whilst 50% of parents always make sure their child aged 8-15 years uses the internet in public spaces, three in ten parents do not.
Whilst 20% of parents always watch their children online, and 40% often do, the remainder sometimes, rarely or never watch their child online.
"Events such as National Child Protection Week are imperative to highlight that the internet is a major element in the child safety argument .Educating parents on their kids' safe internet usage and installing parental controls should be as commonplace as putting them in the appropriate child restraint in the car or teaching them about stranger danger or looking both ways when crossing the road."
Peter Coroneos, Chief Executive for the Internet Industry Association (IIA), Australia's national industry body for internet business in Australia, said, "The IIA is a firm advocate of parents being empowered to take personal responsibility for providing a safe environment for children in the home.
"This new research presented by gizmo, the most comprehensive study to have been undertaken in Australia on this topic in many years, confirms that a good percentage of children are more technologically savvy than their parents and demonstrates how widely children use the internet. It reinforces how important it is to educate parents about internet usage and safety so that they feel confident in speaking to their kids and putting the necessary measures in place to protect them."
Parents seem to have a good idea about what they ought to do and a reasonable awareness of the dangers present. Unfortunately they are weaker at the follow-through; both in the physical activities performed within the home and also in the installation and management of suitable protection mechanisms.