Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Story behind e-Safety statistics, part 1: Who needs help, parents or children?

I love stats, because stats tell a story, and I can only make sense of things when I understand the story. These posts are my attempts to make sense of the various stats that I come across in my work as School Governor with responsibility for e-Safety.

  • 49% of British children aged 12 and under, would be sad without access to the web, while one in five would be lonely. (Intersperience, January 2012)
  •  In 2012, 12-15 year olds spent as much time using the Internet as watching television. (OfCom, October 2012)
  •  80% of 12-15 year olds have an active social networking site profile. (OfCom, October 2012)

The fact that children have a strong emotional attachment to the internet is perfectly natural for a generation whose social life is largely online.

So we can guess that since adults generally don’t live online to the same extent, so it’s also natural that adults do not have the same emotional attachment to the Internet, and do not empathise with their child’s emotional attachment. Simply put, we haven’t grown up with the Internet, so we aren’t immersed in it. Except that’s not true:

  • In 2012, 33 million adults accessed the Internet every day, more than double the 2006 figure of 16 million, when directly comparable records began. (ONS, November 2012)
  • Approximately 87% of adults aged between 16 and 24, used social networking sites in 2012, compared to 48% of all adults. (ONS, November 2012)

Perhaps our discomfort is from our perception that it’s the adult that needs the help, not the child:

  • 23% of teachers didn't feel staff had received adequate training in relation to e-safety. (National Foundation for Educational Research, 2012)
  • 21% of teachers did not feel confident advising a pupil on using social networking sites safely. (National Foundation for Educational Research, 2012)

Except that’s not true either. As with most things, children need to learn, and learn from their role models:

  • Teens revealed that they rely most heavily on their parents for online safety information (74%), followed by school or teachers (66%) and other adults (51%). Only 29% reported getting their online safety information from social media, such as Facebook or Twitter. (Family Online Safety Institute, October 2012)

And when they don’t learn from their role models, they learn the hard way:

  • Nearly half (43%) of teens reported posting something online they later regretted. Of these responses, the main reasons for regretting a post was that it was mean to someone else (28%) or shared too much information (28%). (Family Online Safety Institute, October 2012)

Now we all did stupid things in our reckless youth. The problem is, the Internet makes our mistakes permanent.

The stats show that there’s a perception gap between adults and children of who learns from whom. Interestingly, the stats show that parents are perhaps too comfortable in the Internet savvy of their children:

  • 62% of teens believed their parents to be well informed about their online activity, whereas 91% of parents reported that level of awareness - a perception gap of 29%. (Family Online Safety Institute, October 2012)
  • Whilst only 39% of teens reported that their parents exercised any oversight or monitoring of their online activity, 84% of parents reported such monitoring – a 45% gap in perception. (Family Online Safety Institute, October 2012)

So this perception gap illustrates where our discomfort comes from, because we don’t have the same view of using the Internet as our children. Perhaps this perception gap comes about because using Internet ceases to become a supervised activity as the child gets older, and demands more privacy, or just does things that we’re not interested in:

  • Only 2% of children and young people aged 7-16 had never accessed the Internet in 2012. 70% of children and young people aged 7-16 accessed the Internet in their own room. (Childwise, May 2013)
  • 73% of children and young people aged 5-16 owned their own computer. (Childwise, May 2013)
  • 44% of children aged 5-10 and 96% of children aged 11-16 owned a mobile phone. (Childwise, May 2013)
  • 56% of children aged 5-10 and 73% of children aged 11-16 had their own games console at home, spending an average of 1.5 and 1.7 hours per day on their console respectively. (Childwise, May 2013)

This is the “generational divide” that Dr Tanya Byron talks about, and it is this lack of shared experience that leads parents to a risk-averse attitude.

And when we talk to our teens in a grown up way, they don’t listen!

  • Whilst 93% of parents reported having a conversation with their teen about online safety, only 61% of teens report having such a conversation with their parents [a perception gap of 32%]. (Family Online Safety Institute, October 2012)

So the Internet isn’t so different from any other part of family life, then.

More in this series: part 2.

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