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Parents unsure how to approach 'the dangers of the digital world'

A new report finds that Australian parents are aware of cyberbullying and other threats their children face online, but they lack confidence when it comes to knowing how to deal with digital safety and security.

Trend Micro’s latest research with Life Education Australia found that while Australian children are becoming more digitally-savvy than ever before, communication between parents and their kids continues to be a challenge especially relating to cyberbullying, device usage and activities such gaming, creating new areas for children to be exposed to cyber threats.

Aussie parents still feel in the dark when it comes to how their children are being treated online, with over three-quarters (76.1%) saying that the biggest challenge they face is that their children don’t disclose cyberbullying issues with them.

Parents also cited keeping up with the latest technology (57.6%) and not knowing how to handle the situation (48.2%) as additional concerns that created a disconnect and got in the way of them dealing with cyberbullying.

The research follows the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) recently finding that almost half (48%) of children aged 6-13 own or have access to a mobile phone, using them for a multitude of reasons including playing games, taking photos and using apps.

According to Trend Micro's research, 62% of parents think their children spend too much time on these devices, and 57% continue to determine how much time their children spend on their devices, with only 30% engaging in a negotiation.

This suggests an additional challenge to communication as well as an opportunity to have a two-way conversation to determine the best approach for using technology both inside and outside the home.

Trend Micro managing director, consumer APAC, Tim Falinski, says, “It’s clear that parents are aware of the dangers of the digital world but don’t know how to approach difficult conversations around cyberbullying, what websites they should or shouldn’t visit, and what information they can share online.

“Many parents don’t realise there are resources they can lean on to develop their digital acumen, including bCyberwise a module from Life Education, supported by Trend Micro, that helps parents and children understand cyber safety. These tools can help them to communicate with their kids in a language thats mutually understood, promote positive online experiences, and break down the barriers that often create a tension point among many families.”

Additionally, while over a third (37.3%) of parents surveyed believe that the internet can be a positive place for children to socialise, a significant 71.2% are concerned that online gaming creates new avenues for cyberbullying, especially following the rise of platforms such as Fortnite and Twitch becoming increasing popular amongst children of all ages.

“It’s important that parents know the risks of online gaming which can include contact with strangers, data privacy and inappropriate content and help their children to responsibly engage with these games,” says Falinski.

The research surveyed 1,000 Australian parents on their experiences and attitudes towards the digital world, cyberbullying, and their children’s device usage patterns.