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A fifth of under 12s admit to ‘bad’ online experiences in lockdown but 9 in 10 lack the confidence to tell parents

New research from Avast shows many parents in the dark about kids’ negative online experiences, from unsolicited inappropriate content to unwanted contact from strangers

London, UK, October 2, 2020 Avast (LSE:AVST), a global leader in digital security and privacy products, today reveals that more than one in five children under the age of 12 in the UK (21%) have admitted to having bad online experiences during lockdown. 

Of this group, 72% of children said they had received unkind messages; 72% had received unsolicited and inappropriate content; and 71% had received unwanted contact from a stranger. Another 58% had accidentally downloaded a computer virus and 67% had received an unkind video call.

Despite the fact that 42% of parents say they are now having more open conversations about online safety, almost nine out of ten children (86%) said they didn’t have the confidence to tell their parents. Among the reasons children gave for not seeking help were: didn’t want a friend to get into trouble (14%), they felt embarrassed (13%) or felt scared (11%). A further 9% said they didn’t want to lose access to their smartphone, tablet or laptop as a consequence, while the same number (9%) didn’t recognise the incident or content as harmful.

Kate Dyson, founder of the Motherload Community, is working in partnership with Avast to raise awareness for parents and provide advice on how to address this issue. “I don’t think there is a parent in the land who hasn’t had to resort to digital babysitting over the past six months. There have been some huge positives for parents and kids coming out of this. However, the fact so many children have admitted to having negative online experiences and yet lack the confidence to talk to their parents about it, clearly shows that this is an issue we must address.”

Nick Viney, SVP & GM, Avast Partner BU said, “Encouraging children to be digitally adept from a young age is critical, and that includes learning safe online behaviours. With a few simple strategies in place, we believe parents can encourage a positive online experience for their children in a safe and secure way.

“Parents should maintain an open conversation with their children and check in on their digital activities as they would ask about a day at school, and engage with them to understand the activities they regularly enjoy online like content, games and social networks. Balance parental concern with teaching proper online habits, smart choices, and continued family communication.”

In order to encourage conversations with children about the experiences they’re having online, Avast suggests three top tips:

  • Be calm and approachable: Children will only communicate issues up to where they feel the rules apply. Agree together how to tackle an issue instead of issuing decision, otherwise a child may feel punished rather than protected.
  • Get up to speed with their online world: You have to educate yourself on what’s going on in the 2020s. Know which apps children are using, which social media they like, and what interests them online.
  • Prepare for the journey: Much like a train journey, children are on a fast moving “internet express”. While they may be technically savvy, their emotional understanding is likely to still be immature. 

Avast Family Space is currently on offer to download for free from the Apple App Store and/or the Google Play Store. It is a two-part app: Avast Family Space for Parents runs on the administrator device, and Avast Family Space for Kids can be installed on up to ten monitored devices. 

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Findings represent insights shared by 1003 respondents Avast surveyed throughout the UK during June 2020.