No one said parenting was easy, in the digital age it comes with a whole host of new challenges. How do parents perceive the role of parental controls in keeping children safe online?
My years of experience and sharing with users and professionals on the subject of child safety online made me skeptical when a parent says ?: ” yes, I limit, monitor or control my child’s online activity “. A few pointed questions asking them how they do it and what tools they are using usually cause them to stumble and answer without anything significant. Indeed, more often than not, it turns out that there is no technology in place and that it is more a desire than a reality.
The cynicism that pervades me leads me to the conclusion that many parents consider their own children to be doing nothing wrong – it is the children of other parents who have these problems, so I don’t need to worry about what my kids are doing online. This attitude is of course expected, since we proud parents look at our own children through rose-tinted glasses and are amazed at all they do.
A recent report released by the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) explores attitudes towards parental control and how parents use it. The report grabbed the headlines with an interesting trend showing that parents’ attitudes differ depending on their age, 57% of baby boom parents agreeing that parents have the “greatest share of responsibility”, compared to 43% of Gen Xers and only 30% of Millennial parents.
While this can be seen as a divide, my own take is that it reflects reality: parents of children during the early years of the internet did not have the benefits that many parents enjoy today. . Educators had minimal understanding and the plethora of organizations offering advice today simply did not exist. In many countries, the education system now supports topics covered in school curricula, including privacy, security, anti-cyberbullying, and in some cases, how to identify fake news. This may explain, in part, why parents today see online safety as a collective responsibility.
The landscape of security and privacy protections on social media platforms has changed dramatically since it became popular in the 1990s. Back then, privacy was a choice that ‘We knew if we made significant efforts to lock a profile. Today, many settings, but not all, are set by default with respect for privacy. and there are procedures and options for reporting objectionable content and electronic harassment. Social media companies have had to make these changes to comply with pressure from governments and users.
As regulators around the world continue to pressure social media companies, parents might take a step back from the perception that online safety is their sole responsibility. The benefit of pressure from governments and regulators is that all children benefit, whether or not their parents are committed to keeping them safe online.
Another interesting point from the report is that teens see content taught in schools to deal with digital safety as outdated and less effective than parents’ conversations. As parents we have the opportunity to talk about what matters today, while teachers are required to adhere to the themes defined in a curriculum which typically goes through approval and agreement processes within the education system, and is therefore likely outdated. Confronted with fashions, such and such applications which are currently cool change rapidly and it is probably fairer to view the education system as defining the principles of online safety as opposed to real world use.
The poll indicates that the number one feature of digital tools for parents is the ability to block adult content, with more than half of respondents seeing this function as essential (adult content is defined as movies rated R or X , adult TV shows and websites rated TV-MA, and sexual content). Privacy settings, especially for parents of teenagers, take second place.
The survey also found that most parents (71?%) Said they were “not satisfied” with the tools they used to keep their children safe online. The survey indicates that parents of children aged 7 to 11 are the most likely to use digital tools to keep their children safe online and that for the same age group, age-appropriate video content is a cause for concern. Parents are keen on having a one-stop-shop and one-stop resource for providing parental controls, which is understandable given the many types of devices and the complexity of services that children can use.
In my opinion, keeping children safe online is, and always has been, a collective task shared by all those with influence, whether they are family, friends or teachers. With important lessons, including the responsibility for adopting acceptable online behavior and safety tips, this is a continuation of the expectations that we as parents have in the physical world. And as a parent, it’s important to be a trusted and open source of advice for our children.