Parents worried about children's digital lives

Telenor publishes results of major study on Internet usage and cyber bullying. 3 out of 4 parents lack knowledge about social media, 2 out of 3 think it is challenging to be a digital role model for their children, and 4 out of 10 are concerned about cyber bullying and their children's safety online.

(Fornebu, 19.03.2015) 3 out of 4 parents lack knowledge about social media, 2 out of 3 think it is challenging to be a digital role model for their children, and 4 out of 10 are concerned about cyber bullying and their children's safety online.

This emerges in a new nationwide study in which Telenor has surveyed parents' knowledge of their children's social lives online.

With the emergence of digital society, the fight against cyber bullying has become an important issue for Telenor, and together with the Norwegian Media Authority, the Norwegian Red Cross and Kids and Media, they have developed Norway's largest anti-bullying campaign, Use Your Head. Since launching in 2009, Use Your Head has visited over 560 lower secondary schools and reached out to more than 165,000 pupils and 33,000 parents. Measurements show that the campaign has had an extremely positive impact. Now Telenor wants to reach out to even more parents.

'The Internet and social media have become a natural part of everyday life for children and young people, and they are digital citizens from an early age. Today, almost 70 per cent of 9-11 year olds have a smartphone, and this means in practice that they are online constantly. This means we have to enter at an even earlier stage than before if we are to give them good online habits,' says Telenor Norway CEO Berit Svendsen.

Difficult to keep up-to-date
The nationwide study was conducted by Norstat on behalf of Telenor, and is the first step in a larger initiative. The goal is to develop a tool that can help parents provide a digital upbringing to their kids, and the launch is planned for the autumn - an initiative the National Parents’ Committee for Primary and Secondary Education (FUG) are happy about.

'The study confirms something we are also being told at FUG. The fact that 75 per cent of parents feel that they don't have enough general knowledge about the digital platforms, and 80 per cent think it's difficult to stay up-to-date about the social media being used by their children tells us that this is something parents need help with,' says the Chairman of FUG, Elisabeth Strengen Gundersen.

By creating an arena to teach more about children and young people's online social lives, Telenor will provide parents with greater knowledge about how to handle all the challenges their children may face in their digital everyday lives.

Don't think that cyber bullying affects their own kids
In the study, it emerges that 4 out of 10 parents see cyber bullying as a problem for the children and young people of today. Yet only 4 per cent believe it affects their own children.

'We know through previous studies that the figure is far higher than this - 13 per cent of all children and young people between 9 and 16 years old are on the receiving end of cyber bullying. Many think it doesn't affect them, but it does. Cyber bullying affects us not just when it hits our own kids, but also when it hits other people's kids. Children we hear about in the media - and children we never hear about, but who have their confidence destroyed by bullying, and have to carry that with them for the rest of their lives. To eradicate cyber bullying once and for all, we all have to take a share of the common responsibility - as friends, as family, as neighbours and as fellow human beings,' says Svendsen.

Bullying has moved to closed forums
There is little bullying that is visible in open forums online. With the emergence of social media, the problem has become even greater in closed spaces where parents have little control over what happens. This means it is important that parents teach their children good online habits by setting a good example, says Svendsen.

'30 per cent of parents say they comment on news items, and out of these, 4 out of 10 say they always or occasionally comment anonymously. It may be things we don't think about - often, jocular comments aren't meant to offend, but they can still be hurtful to the recipient,' says Telenor Norway CEO Berit Svendsen.

The study shows that 65 per cent of parents think it is difficult to be a good digital role model for their kids. Elisabeth Strengen Gundersen, the Chairman of FUG, recommends that parents familiarise themselves with the digital platforms available and which ones their children use.

'But it is even more important to contribute to reflection and critical thinking about the use of these platforms, and invite good dialogue about the issue at home - even if the issue is online,' says Gundersen.

Calls for joint effort
Research shows that children and young people who experience bullying often have suicidal thoughts. Cyber bullying often hits home hardest because the bullies are not face to face with their victims and cannot see their reaction.

'It is a minority that become bullies, and a minority that are bullied. But as a society, we can't sit back and accept that this happens - one victim of bullying is one too many, and 65,000 children and young people in Norway are currently subjected to cyber bullying. That's 65,000 too many! This isn't about my or your kids - it is about the fact that no children or young people should experience being bullied,' says Telenor Norway CEO Berit Svendsen.

5 tips for parents

1. Develop your own online skills
You don't need to be all that active on social media yourself, but keep up-to-date with your children's social media usage. The media can be a good source for this, but the real experts are actual children.

It's also well worth trying out the channels to see how they work.

2. Be a good role model
Think about what you post on social media and in other channels. What attitudes and beliefs do you express? Also think about what pictures you share - is it okay for child and others that you are doing that?

3. Children are also entitled to a private life
Is it always okay to be "friends" with your kids on social media? There's no good answer, but talk with your kids about what they think. As parents, we have many ways of monitoring our children, but it doesn't mean we can exploit them. Here it is important to work to form attitudes.

4. Talk with other parents
Talk about digital challenges and opportunities with other parents. This may give you better insight into what is happening around children in your environment.

5. Bullying affects everyone!
Even if your child or their friends are not involved in bullying, they know what happens at school. You can always help to make a difference for someone that needs it.

More findings from Telenor's study:

  • Facebook is the most used channel among parents in the study, and 78 per cent say they use it on at least a weekly basis.
  • Parents under 40 are far more active on Facebook than those over 40, with 88 per cent compared to 73 per cent of over 40s.
  • Among children, Snapchat has surpassed Facebook as the largest social media. 68 per cent of parents state that their children use Facebook; the proportion that uses Snapchat is 73 per cent.
  • Just 36 per cent of parents use Snapchat themselves, and 5 per cent of them do not know if their children use the popular app.
  • 67 per cent of parents say their children use Instagram, 5 per cent forbid their children from being on Instagram, and 5 per cent do not know if their children have their own profile on the network.
  • Among parents themselves, just 21 per cent are active on Instagram on at least a weekly basis. Parents under 40 are also more active in this instance than those over 40.
  • 88 per cent of parents talk to their children about challenges in their digital everyday lives on at least a monthly basis, while 12 per cent say they rarely or never do so.
  • 77 per cent of parents find it challenging that it is not normal to discuss children's digital everyday lives with other parents.
  • 49 per cent think it is difficult to ask for help to manage the digital upbringing of their children, and 37 per cent think it is embarrassing to ask for help.
  • 64 per cent of respondents say they do not know enough about which social media platforms their children use, while 41 per cent state that it is a challenge that their kids do not want to be friends with them on social media platforms.
  • 37 per cent of parents are not friends with their children on any social media platforms.

Facts about cyber bullying

  • Cyber bullying is bullying on technical platforms like mobile and Internet.
  • The bully uses tools such as text messages, MMS messages, different image and communication apps, chat rooms and social networks.
  • Since cyber bullying has a direct impact on the victim online or via mobile, it can be more difficult to discover and harder to protect against.
  • Examples of cyber bullying include the sharing of inappropriate or private images and films without consent, "beauty contests" where votes are placed for the prettiest and ugliest members of a peer group, insulting discussion about appearance or sexual orientation, and rumours, threats and exclusion.