Parents unaware of children's online activities

As the Internet becomes a larger part of everyday life, establishing boundaries online between parents and children is increasingly vital, says Symantec.
Written by Konrad Foo, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Teenagers are spending almost twice as much time online as their parents think and 98 percent of parents are unaware a quarter of teenagers here access illegal or unlicensed materials online, a survey revealed.

In a press statement released Thursday, Symantec highlighted the risks that teenagers pose with the lack of parental awareness and the variety of online activities teenagers engage in online.

Commissioned by Symantec, the Norton's Online Living Report Singapore was conducted by Saffron Hill. It polled 432 respondents constituting 397 adults 20 years and older, including 93 parents, and 35 children aged 15 to 19.

The report revealed Singapore teenagers spend an average of 18 hours online each week. This is eight hours more than the global average in a similar survey and four hours more than their parents.

Children are able to connect to the Internet readily at home or at school, but they are increasingly looking for an alternative environment away from "parents' prying eyes", Symantec said. The survey reported 38 percent of teenagers going online at a friend's place and 23 percent at an Internet café.

Of the respondents, 44 percent were worried about their personal information online. However, a majority continued to believe online fraud would only happen to "careless" people and that they were able to spot reputable Web sites, unaware of malware being able to infect and pass along a threat through legitimate sites.

Although 61 percent of parents claimed to know what their child was looking at online, a mismatch between the activities selected by both parties in one of the survey's questions was observed. Parents were not only underestimating the time spent online by teenagers, but also unaware of the activities they engaged in online.

Among teenagers, 48 percent chatted with strangers online more than once a week and 43 percent gave out personal information online. One-out-of-five teenagers accessed illegal or unlicensed materials while parents believed that the majority of online activity was confined to entertainment and games sites.

Responses by teenagers indicated otherwise. In reality, 93 percent spent time video streaming, 88 percent on social networking and 55 percent blogging.

Effendy Ibrahim, consumer business lead, Asia South region, Symantec, said: "For many parents, who often have less knowledge and experience of the Internet than their kids, it can be a place of trepidation."

On the bright side, 30 percent of parents felt more can be done to protect their children online and 57 percent recognized parental controls as an effective way to achieve that. Among those polled, 45 percent of parents had reprimanded their child for doing something online that they disapproved.

According to the survey, 39 percent of parents spied on their children's Internet usage, 79 percent had spoken to their children about practicing safe online habits and 46 percent had set parental controls.

"These survey results are a reminder for us, as parents, to take the time to understand where our kids are--whether online or offline--and allow them the freedom to surf, whilst at the same time ensuring adequate protection", said Ibrahim.

Based in Singapore, Konrad Foo is an intern with ZDNet Asia.

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