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Parents’ knowledge of the internet should be tested

A survey conducted by AVG and Plymouth University has highlighted the disparity between the knowledge parents believe they have about internet safety and their actual knowledge.

More than 2,000 UK parents participated in the survey entitled “Parents, Schools and the Digital Divide.”, part of a research report run by Plymouth University and AVG Technologies, the company best known for its free antivirus software.

TrustedReviews was told at a meeting to discuss and analyse the findings that many parents were overconfident about their abilities and knowledge about keeping children safe online. Will Gardner, CEO of Childnet, “It’s a shared responsibility where parents have a role, schools have a role, industry has a role and government has a role” but he insists that “parents are the biggest single influence in the discussion” about child online safety.

92% of parents responding to the survey said they are confident in their about their own ability to teach online safety to their children, including accessing inappropriate content, such as porn, or contacting strangers online. However, the study highlights a chasm between actual knowledge and the knowledge parents perceive they have.

For example almost a third of parents had either never had a discussion with their children about sexual adult content online because they are “too young” or simply hadn’t “got around to it”.

89% of parents also believe their child has never been involved in any way as either a perpetrator or a victim. This goes against the findings of previous quantitative and qualitative studies that suggest these are in fact the most frequent issues children face online.

A key message of the findings is that children’s online safety is not an issue that can be resolved solely by censoring the web. Andy Phippen, professor of social responsibility at Plymouth University, explained that “This is not a technical issue – it’s a social issue. It facilitated by technology but these are social issues” and that the main problem was to do with communication and attitudes to sex, the internet and family. “Most teenage children will rather die than tell their parents they’ve got into trouble sexting”.

Tony Anscombe, AVG’s senior security evangelist, thinks there’s an answer: “We believe asking parents to sign up to a simple online safety assessment when completing a school’s internet usage policy would give parents the starting point they need to further improve their own IT knowledge.”
This would be a way of identifying knowledge gaps and educating parents rather than a judgment of parenting skills.

Andy Phippen agrees “An online safety assessment could give parents an indication of their strengths and weaknesses and working in partnership with the school, they could identify areas they need to brush up on, accessing helpful advice and learning materials.”

Do you think it is the parent’s responsibility to educate children in the dangers of internet or should schools, government and industry lead the way?

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