Why Don’t Parents Care About Cyber Safety?

Why Don’t Parents Care About Cyber Safety?

Blinded By Cyber Safety
Blinded By Cyber Safety Photo: Shutterstock

You cannot open a newspaper or read news online these days without seeing a story about a child being bullied online, stalked, or taken advantage of. Some of the stories are so heartbreaking I can’t bear to read them. The reasons why the bullying or stalking has progressed to a point where it has hit the news, is sadly most often, that the parents were totally unaware of what was going on before it was too late. The Kids didn’t tell anyone, and if they did, no one thought it was serious, mum and dad didn’t know what to do? Authorities didn’t act.

I actually know parents ARE concerned about cyber safety and computer addictions, I hear them talking about it, but their actions or inactions don’t support their concerns, and this confuses me. Statistics show that parents are more terrified that their child will be stalked by a pedophile online than any other attack that can occur online. But in reality the likelihood of your child being “groomed” or stalked by a pedophile is far less likely, than them just simply being bullied and taunted to the point of absolute despair by other kids that they, and their parents know. The figures all bear this out. http://www.zdnet.com.au/parents-dont-act-on-cyber-safety-fears-339301950.htm

When I held my first cyber safety talk at my son’s school last week, I was warned by the head of school that it was very likely that only a tiny percentage of parents would actually turn up to the talk, and he had no idea why. Apparently this school had previously booked an “expert” on Social Networking safety from the USA, a woman who was a leader in her field, who had written books on the subject! But out of the entire school of 700 students, a mere 12 parents showed up, and a few of them were…couples! So relatively I guess I should be grateful I had 14 parents of just year 8 students with only one couple. By comparison it was a huge turn out!

Now, this school is NOT full of unsociable parents who don’t care about turning up to events, its a private school and so the parents are reasonably well off, they are more often buisness owners, they turn up to lots of events at the school, French dinner nights, concerts, cocktail meet and greets you name it a great crowd! and they are, from all appearances really caring and involved parents! So whats going on here?

Are the parents at this school, so up to date with social media and cyber safety they see no need to go to this talk? Are their children totally safe and well balanced on their computer use? Is there nothing I can teach them about cyber safety or computer monitoring? Why are they suddenly too busy for this talk?

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I thought a lot about this conundrum in the days and weeks after this talk. I wondered why my son’s school has had a history of this sort of response, especially when the family economic demographic meant that most, if not ALL households had computers and were online, but as part of my investigations, I found out that other schools have similer problems. Parents just don’t want to turn up to talks on Cyber Safety for their kids. So a lot of schools are simply NOT bothering to hold them, they book talks for children only and in school hours. I noticed that another cyber safety talk was being held during the same week, but was held for several schools on the North Shore, I wondered if the organisers felt it was going to be more successful to involve several schools and get more of a turn up?

I don’t know why parents are not showing up, but I need to find out! I need to help give parents a reason to show up, to make it an imperative to show up, because I feel that this is so important! If this issue of Cyber Safety is all over the news, I just don’t understand why are other parents just not concerned enough to get educated and get involved? Maybe, its about turning a blind eye, it’s too hard to face. Maybe they don’t want to look clueless, maybe they think their kids have it over them already, maybe its the “It will never happen to us” syndrome. Maybe they are just too intimidated to go to a talk? I’m baffled, what am I missing here? Is it the same as the “Kids Drugs and Alcohol” talks? “it doesn’t feel good so I don’t wanna go”? Maybe we should bill our next Cyber Safety talk as a trivia cocktail night and trap them! lock the doors! shrugs…

I'm Not A Cyber Cop!
I’m Not A Cyber Cop! Photo: Shutterstock

Now lets be clear, I’m not a Cyber Cop, I’m not a University Professor with a degree in digital social networking. I’m presenting these talks from the perspective of a mum of 4 kids from Age 11 – 28yrs, admittedly a totally geeky one, but presenting these talks hopefully in language you will understand and with ideas about how to make it work at home. I am NOT intimidating, (I hope). I really do understand how hard it is to monitor your childrens behaviour and to keep kids safe online and deal with computer game addiction, it can be very hard work!…I’ve been trying to keep my kids safe online quite a while…and I had to learn by trial and error it was all very new back in 1995. Im not judging you, and honestly, I totally understand your bewilderment. But parents…you CANNOT afford to stick your head in the sand over this! It’s getting more and more complex by the day, and the longer you ignore it, the harder it will be to catch up.

This issue is NOT going away, and its so important for parents to get involved now, for your kids and your eventual grandkids! you need to have conversations with your kids about online behaviour, and you need to understand where your kids go at night, BEFORE anything upsetting happens!

You might as well take your child to a city train station leave them there and ask them to find their own way home…you wouldn’t do it.

Even if you decide its all to hard “I’m banning the LOT “, unless you are living in an Amish community….your children’s friends will most likely have computers and online games…

I wish the real reason that parents are NOT showing up to talks, or getting educated about Cyber Safety was because parents already do have it all set up, and because they are already fully aware of what their kids are up to online, but the stats and sad episodes of cyber bullying just don’t back this up.

What is it going to take for some parents to take steps to be part of their childrens online lives? I really hope it isn’t something that hurts their kids.

Please read these stats. Taken from this article. on Human Capital League.

  1. About half of all teenagers have experienced some form of online harassment and 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly (Cyberbullying Research Center).
  2. Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet (i-SAFE).
  3. Over half of bullying and cyberbully attacks go unreported to parents, educators, or authorities.
  4. On a daily average, 160,000 children miss school because they fear they will be bullied if they attend classes.
  5. Every 7 minutes, a child is bullied on a school playground, with over 85 percent of those instances occurring without any intervention.
  6. 100,000 children carry guns to school in 2009 as a result of being bullied.
  7. As a result of being bullied, 19,000 children are attempting suicide over the course of one year.
  8. Once every half hour a child commits suicide as a direct result of being bullied (online and offline).
  9. At the end of 2010, over 30 children had taken their own lives after being cyberbullied.
  10. 64 percent of all teens say they do things online they don’t want their parents to know about (Lenhart, Made, and Rainie, 2006).
  11. 71 percent of teens receive message online from strangers (National Center for Minind and Exploited Children).
  12. 51 percent of teens have been asked for personal information online (MCAfee, Inc.).
  13. 42 percent of youths ages 10 to 17 have seen porn in the past year.Two-thirds of these exposures are unwanted (University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center).
  14. 26 percent of teens have been harassed by their cell phones either by voice or text (Pew Research: Lenhart, 2010).
  15. Size doesn’t matter – cyberbullies don’t have to be “tough” or big.
  16. 72 percent of parents say they can see their child’s full profile on social networking sites.
  17. Most victims have not set up privacy and security settings.

Go to a Cyber Safety Talk, if not mine, someone elses but please parents get involved and get educated!

Follow Me on Twitter! Click here ? @_LeonieGSmith

http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/

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  • I think there are two factors in play here. One involves a certain amount of indifference to bullying – online or off – unless it results in physical injury, or property damage. The other is a sense that anything that doesn’t happen face-to-face is somehow ‘less real’ (much like parents in the 1960s commonly told their children to spend less time on the phone and instead focus on having ‘real’ conversations.

    If we’re committed to the false notion that anything outside of slapping-distance is somehow less ‘real’, then the perceived importance of ‘cyber-bullying’ and online *safety* is diminished as parents are having difficulty getting to grips with the idea of online *harm*.

    • Interesting, hadn’t thought of that. Its a long time since I’ve been to a Drugs and Alcohol talk at a school, early 90’s I’m wondering though what the turn up to those is?

  • Thanks for sharing this post, it’s an important topic and very interesting to discuss attitudes to important topics like online safety.

    Regarding your question specifically, why don’t parents care, or rather, through observation, why don’t more parents invest in understanding online safety, I think it comes down to innate decision making we see in many aspects of safety.

    Certainly, there are risks and dangers in online activities and I believe most parents are aware of these – although I agree, there is a tendency to focus on the hyped predatory dangers rather than the much more prevalent bullying, personal identity theft and other issues that can occur.

    That said, there are many dangerous situations and activities in life. Let’s consider a few examples – bicycle road safety or home fire safety. Every year thousands of people are affected by bicycle accidents or fires – some killed, many injured or otherwise affected. There are plenty of classes available – I often see advertisements for safe cycling lessons, but I doubt many people attend. Why not? It’s a likely risk that a cyclist would be injured, so why don’t all cyclists go to these classes? Maybe it’s because they feel that they understand the risks, perhaps it’s that they don’t have the time. Overall, I think a lot of people feel a sense of “yeah, but it won’t happen to me” and while they might worry when they think about these things, more often than not they’ll just go about their daily lives.

    How can parents become more involved? Perhaps it’s via their children, although I guess that has challenges too. Kids are required to go to class, and listen (to an extent!) and they’re the ones who are making use of technology, tools and software. All the great programs and initiatives to educate kids are important – perhaps kids can be encouraged to talk with their parents and then resources be made available that are succinct and easy for busy/time-poor parents to use. I’m an ardent believer in the philosophy that the best approach for online safety is a mature, open relationship between parent and child, relative to child age groupings where a kid can feel confident to explore, play and learn online, but feel that they can talk to their parent if they need help.

    Paul

    • Thanks for your comment Paul. You bring up a lot of very good points. I agree that it’s human nature to put off doing anything that might make our lives safer if it costs money or is a bother. Fencing around swimming pools only really kicked off, when it became mandatory. It didn’t seem to matter how many toddlers lives were lost, some people just didn’t want to spend the money, thinking that in their particular case it would never happen.

      With all these type of insurances, its families and children that suffer when gates are left open, fire alarms are allowed to go flat…and great amounts of federal and state money are spent to investigate and prosecute those that through their lack of care have shown negligence.

      However I also think that the conspiracy of silence around this particular issue amongst educators, families and children leads many parents to wrongly assume that there is very little harm that can come from an unfiltered access to the internet by young children.

      Recent statistics show that only 10% of children tell someone when they have been bullied or harmed online. Other studies show that the majority of parents don’t know what their children are exposed to online. And certainly teachers that are informed of cyber bulling by students in their schools or worse told about experiences like pedophile approaches are not informing the parents of their students when it is happening. I see this clearly with my children’s own schools failure to report such things. I think its a legal matter, and also is bad publicity and probably a privacy matter. But school principles aren’t ever talking about it in general terms.

      I’ve spoken to Police, Teachers, Parents and Students, and between all of them the real figures of the harm that is being done to children online, is by omission being totally misrepresented to parents. It’s no wonder parents feel they can afford to miss cyber safety education.

      In Australia the latest figures show that one in 4 kids is cyber bullied online. That could be anything from being ganged up on Facebook to outright stalking and harassment. So with that many kids coming to grief online, why is that message not getting through to enough parents?

      I would agree that there will always be parents who are negligent, the sort of parents who won’t put a car seat in the car for a toddler to keep them safe, and there will always be parents who are naive. But the amount of parents showing up to talks is so low, I don’t believe it’s just a case of out of sight out of mind. It’s a totally lack of awareness. Parents think they know a LOT more than they do. So many are totally focused on Facebook meanwhile their child is talking to a predator on an iPod app.

      Parents need to talk to other parents, teachers need to be truthful about the reports they are getting of harm to their students online. And kids, as you said, need to be able to talk to their parents or some other carer about their online experience without fear. The conspiracy of silence does no one any good, least of all the children.