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Who is responsible for children’s cyber security on the Internet?

Who is responsible for children’s cyber security on the Internet?

The digital age carries many possibilities and risks. Immediate access to any information, communication with new people online may represent advantages of the digitalized world and hide serious dangers. The latter is particularly relevant for children as the digital world has become an integral part of their lives.

For instance, according to the report “Internet Security: The survey results of Ukraine’s residents aged 12 y.o. and older” that was conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology on the initiative of the Ministry of Digital Transformation and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, opinion poll among parents shows that vast majority of children under 12 years (78.5%) use the Internet and 40% of them have accounts in social media. At the same time, only 34.5% of children who are under 3 years old use the Internet while 69% of children aged 4-6 use it. The level of using the Internet is at the level of 91-98% among children aged 7-11. In addition, according to the analytical report “Child Sexual Abuse and Child Sexual Exploitation on the Internet”, 33% of children aged 6-17 (the sample comprises 4745 respondents) usually spend 3-5 hours on the Internet every day and this is over 52 days of the year. Meanwhile, 23% of children spend over 5 hours online every day, which encompasses 78 days of the year.

The above mentioned information shows that children use achievements of the digital world significantly and spend a lot of time online. However a question arises about safe assistance of child’s activities on the Internet and who should carry it out.

According to the report “Internet Security: The survey results of Ukraine’s residents aged 12 y.o. and older”, respondents who have children under 18 years old believe that parents themselves should be responsible for their children on the Internet. At the same time, only 33% of respondents at the age of 12-14 asked for help when they had stumbled across something confusing or unpleasant online.

This may indicate the lack of trust in the vast majority of children that adults will help them in case a problem appears. Moreover, among those children who asked for help 75% called their parents and 13% addressed their friends of the same age. It becomes clear that the main responsibility for children’s security on the Internet lays on parents.

For example, according to NGO “MINZMIN”, 84% of parents around the world are concerned about the security of their children on the Internet. But they spend not enough time to discuss the issues of security with their child/children. A survey conducted by the marketing company Savanta confirms this. For instance, it showed that in general parents spent only 46 minutes during their child’s/children's childhood to speak about cyber security. 58% of surveyed parents (sample comprises 9 thousand persons) dedicated less than 30 minutes to the issue of cyber security. This is shorter than a school lesson. At the same time, 81% of respondents believe that teaching children Internet security is a joint responsibility of parents and a school. However, the majority of parents (86%) agree that they will deal with teaching their children internet security better as children trust them more. This is the case in the report of the Kyiv International School of Sociology that was mentioned above.

According to the survey carried out by the Savanta company, the main challenge for parents is to explain cyber threats in simple and plain language to their children. This was the challenge for 60% of respondents. Meanwhile, 51% of parents find it difficult to convince their children to take cyber threats seriously.

Given information from the above mentioned surveys, team of iDemocracy recommends parents to communicate with their children about cyber threats on the Internet more often as it is the issue of children’s security and the development of their competence in the digital era. These issues should be discussed by spending an adequate amount of time. For this reason parents can use the following resources that will help them both to understand the essence of cyber threats better and explain dangers of these cyber threats to children in a more affordable manner. These resources are the Child Rescue Service, StopSexting, recommendations and tips elaborated by the Ministry of Education of Ukraine as well as the educational series “Children’s Security on the Internet” at the “Diia.Digital Education” platform.