Children are being distracted from studying at home because of Facebook and Twitter services claim Telstra who recently commissioned a Cyber-safety Research Report.
The survey of parents with children aged 10 to 17 years was conducted by Newspoll and shows the problem is more pronounced with teenagers aged between 14 and 17 years, with 65 per cent of parents reporting social networking is frequently or occasionally distracting their children from their homework.
The research also found:
· Use of social networking is significantly higher among 14-17 year olds (84 per cent) than 10 to 13 year olds (49 per cent)
· One quarter of parents estimate their child spends at least seven hours a week (the equivalent of an hour a day) of their spare time on social networking sites like Facebook
· Among parents whose children use online social networking, the majority (62 per cent) do not feel their child’s usage of social networking sites is impacting on their child’s health or wellbeing.
The Telstra Cyber-safety Research Report has led cyber-safety expert Dr Martyn Wild, Managing Director of SuperClubsPLUS Australia, to encourage parents to place computers in family areas such as a lounge room, in an effort to keep younger school children focused on their studies.
“You wouldn’t let your kids stay out socialising with their friends until all hours on a school night, but that is exactly what they are doing online, often right under their parents’ noses,” Dr Wild said. “The answer is not turning off internet access, rather it’s about implementing simple behavioural changes in your children and setting realistic expectations about their use of the internet.
“But with older students, parents and carers will need to develop the trust for these students to exercise their own judgements about balancing online ‘play’ and ‘work’ sensibly and responsibly.
“As sites like Facebook continue to grow in popularity, parents should set ‘house rules’ and help their children learn responsible online behaviours just as they do in regards to their non-internet lives. I don’t suggest you become an ‘internet big brother’, just be aware of when and what your kids are doing online and be prepared to set realistic guidelines,” Dr Wild said.
“Computers are a fantastic educational tool, and in 2010 are almost impossible to do without at just about at any level of study. However it is important they are used to enhance rather than distract students from their school studies, especially in those vital secondary years.”
In response to the growing interest in cyber-safety Telstra has updated its cyber-safety website – www.telstra.com.au/cyber-safety – to include new features like the following tips to help guide parents in monitoring their children’s social networking habits:
· Make sure you supervise, guide and are involved with your children’s use of the internet including social network sites such as Facebook, MSN, Twitter and chat rooms
· Set up a computer desk with internet access in a family area such as the living or lounge room or a communal area elsewhere in the house
· Talk to older students about the need to balance online ‘play’ and ‘work’ sensibly and responsibly
· Establish rules, in conjunction with your children, about the use of social networking. For example homework must be completed before logging onto sites like Facebook, restrict the use of social networking sites after a certain time during the school week and leave laptops in a common area when going to bed. These rules could be posted near the computer as a reminder
· Be aware of how children are using their mobile phones and other devices like the Sony PSP to connect to the internet and include these devices in the setting of rules and expectations
· Place a time limit on chat room participation and encourage the use of sites which have a moderator.
Telstra’s Officer of Internet Trust and Safety Mr Darren Kane said the Telstra cyber-safety site had been designed to provide internet users with access to information and expertise enabling them to make their online experience safer and more enjoyable – regardless of age.
“We have worked with cyber-safety experts, parents, kids, teenagers and older Australians to provide access to credible information, websites and useful tips. The intention is to have an easy to use site with a variety of information for our customers and their families to make the most of their online experience,” Darren said.