Do more children have to die before parents take their online lives seriously?

ESET Ireland survey: Up to 73% of children are left entirely unsupervised online.

The recent Co. Donegal and Co. Leitrim tragedies, where two teenage girls committed suicide because of online bullying and abuse, reminded us in a most dreadful way that the web isn’t just a nice place of Google searches, YouTube videos and friendly Facebook wall posts. Online life, just like regular life, has its shady sides as well. But while we’re taking many measures to stay safe in real life, the online life is considered less important by most. At least until something tragic occurs.

These horrible events prompted us to attempt raising awareness of the issue once again in hope something does change for the better, and remind the Irish public of the survey we had conducted about a year ago. ESET Ireland had a survey done with over a thousand people participating across Ireland, to find out if Irish children are supervised online. The results were shocking as they revealed that up to three quarters of children are left entirely unsupervised online.

We asked if children of different age groups (ranging from 6 to 16) were left unsupervised online, and as it turns out parents seem to supervise less and less as the children age. So the youngest group of 6-7 years of age were only left unsupervised in 27% of the cases, but then supervision drops incrementally to 73% being unsupervised in the 16 years of age group.

Question: Is your child left unsupervised online?
The graph shows how many parents of children of a certain age said YES.

It is hard to imagine that a third of 6-7 year olds and three quarters of 16 year olds receive absolutely no supervision from their parents while online, when it has also been brought forward by other researchers, that just over one in ten will accept any friend request on social media, and nearly half of them have friends they have never met.

At ESET we believe it’s also a parent’s job to help younger children to develop on-line life skills:

  • Know (and discuss) the dangers. With younger children, learning about safety issues could be a family project where parents and children could learn from each other.
  • Just because it isn’t physical, bullying and abuse online is just as traumatic and cruel as elsewhere and should be detected early, blocked in time and the victim treated as seriously as they would be in the case of any other abuse.
  • The web (and especially social media sites) are full of social interaction with people you or your children may never have met, as well as people that may not have good intentions. Keep an eye on who your children are communicating with and what it is about.
  • Think about installing Parental Control software which lets you monitor and limit computer use, as well as block many categories of offending websites and programs.

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