New research from cyber-security firm McAfee entitled “Teens, Tweens and Technology” has found 81pc of Aussie kids have witnessed cyberbullying, up from 56pc last year, warning that risky online behaviour can impact privacy, reputation and social media experiences.
Parents, it pays to know what your children are up to online, because new research says they’re taking some dangerous risks and are hiding their online activities from you.
The news comes from cyber-security firm McAfee
, now owned by chipmaker Intel, noting a big jump in cyberbullying, a big jump in underage Facebook access despite the legal access age being 13, and other risky behaviour on social media sites.
The research uncovered that 31pc of 8 to 9 year olds and 60pc of 10 to 12 year olds admitted having a Facebook profile – a big jump from last year where only 26pc of tweens admitted having a Facebook account.
Skype is the most popular social website for tweens, with newcomers and video-based social networking site Keek, and anonymous messaging app Yik Yak, also having gained “quick acceptance across all age groups” – although strangely, SnapChat isn’t mentioned in the media release.
The survey also worrying revealed that 40pc of teens and tweens are experiencing cyberbullying.
McAfee’s APAC Consumer Marketing Director, Melanie Duca, said: “Teens and tweens are very comfortable operating in the online world, yet the risks have never been greater. Young people are often the pioneers for new technologies so they need to understand the consequences of their online behaviour.”
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“For the second year running, we have uncovered findings about how vulnerable our young people are online. While the figures on cyberbullying are confronting, we know that continued efforts to educate on cyber safety, cyber security and responsible online behaviour among this audience is critical,” added Ms Duca.
McAfee’s long-time partner, Life Education Australia, expressed alarm that “the research found that a quarter of teens and tweens don’t know where to report incidences of cyberbullying.”
Life Education’s National Program Development Manager, Robyn Richardson said: “Our bCyberwise and It’s Your Call programs, which were developed in conjunction with McAfee, teach teens and tweens about how to be safe cyber citizens and how to respect others online.
“We understand that with the rise in the number of young people online, and at younger ages, cyberbullying is an unfortunate factor in online interaction. There is still a lot to be done in educating about the negative consequences for victims, witnesses and those who display bullying behaviour.
“The focus of the program is prevention; teaching valuable skills that promote social and emotional development, positive relationships, self-respect and safe decision-making to help combat and minimise the risks young people are facing online,” said Ms Richardson.
The report also states that with young people so comfortable using technology and social/digital media sites, it is worrying to see them “letting their guard down and engaging in behaviours that place them at risk.”
Half of teens and tweens say they have done or posted something risky online and one in five have tried to reinvent themselves online by creating a fake profile (12 per cent).
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Nearly half (48 per cent) have chatted online with or live tweeted someone they don’t know, a jump from 19 per cent in 2013. And one in five (18 per cent) have met someone in person that they first met online.
Parenting expert, Dr Justin Coulson, said, “We know that teens and tweens are willing to sacrifice privacy and cyber safety for the gratification they feel when their social network responds positively – they weigh up risk and reward on a daily basis and far too many are choosing to take the risk and get the reward, even if it endangers them.
“Our children may even have multiple identities on the one platform – one that is ‘parent friendly’, and another that parents don’t know about that might feature more concerning content.
“We need to understand that kids are still posting private information online or sharing too much in order to get ‘likes’, and continue to educate them about the risks,” concluded Dr Coulson.
While more than 8 in 10 teens and tweens saying they respect parental guidance “on personal decisions regarding social media from their parents, and nine in 10 say their parents trust them to make the right decisions online, the report notes that “parents are not fully across their children’s online activity with 70 per cent saying their parents know only some of what they do online”.
Half then say their “parents can’t keep up with the technology and 70 pc admit to proactively hiding what they do online from their parents.”
Other survey highlights including 27pc of young kids fear being cyberbullied, 21pc are fearful of losing their information, 31pc fear being hacked and 23pc fear losing their privacy.
74pc would agree to their parents receiving alerts about their location, while 28pc “keep an eye on their younger siblings’ social pages, and actively providing advice on what’s appropriate.”
McAfee’s “top 5 tips for parents to help educate their kids” are:
1. Connect with Your Kids. Talk to them about the risks of being online and make sure the communication lines are always open.
2. Learn their Technology. Stay one step ahead and take the time to research the various devices your kids use. You want to know more about their devices than they do.
3. Get Social. Stay knowledgeable about the newest and latest social networks. Join whatever networks or sites your kids are into so you understand how it all works.
4. Reputation Management. Make sure your kids are aware that anything they post online is permanent.
5. Stay Calm. If your kids come to you with an online problem, it’s important not to overact. Deal with it calmly and don’t threaten to take devices away, or they may not feel confident about seeking your help again.
The report surveyed 1,033 children and teenagers aged 8 to 17 in Australia and was split evenly among age and gender, with the interviews conducted from June 16 to June 27, 2014.