July 20, 2024

Young people keen to educate parents on online safety – as more than a third of carers are not clear on where to go for support

Research reveals the need for more and better conversations with young people about what they do, see and experience online

  • Young people are keen to educate their parents and carers, with 55% in Wales feeling they can help to educate them about being safe online
  • 39% of parents are not sure of where to go should they need support
  • 70% of young people feel responsible for reporting bad or potentially dangerous behaviour online. However, only 24% have reported someone or something troubling.
  • At least 78% of 8 to 17-year-olds in Wales would turn to their parents or carers if they saw something worrying or upsetting online
  • However, some young people don’t feel able to talk with nearly one in 10 (5%) reporting they couldn’t have a conversation with anyone about their life online

Research commissioned by the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC) for Safer Internet Day reveals more than half (55%) of young people in Wales believe they can help educate parents or carers on internet harms. This response comes as more than three quarters (72%) of children and young people say their parents regularly talk to them about their online lives, yet over a third (39%) of parents and carers admit they’re not certain where to turn should they need support or access to resources when it comes to online safety.

The research, conducted by Censuswide, received more than 4000 responses across the UK from parents, carers and young people (107 from Wales). At least 78% of those in the country aged 8 and 17 say they would confide in their parents and carers if they saw something worrying or upsetting online – including unwanted contact, bullying and fake news.

 

UKSIC Director, Will Gardner OBE, said:

“Our research shows a real desire amongst most parents, carers and young people to start a conversation about online safety. It also highlights the importance of our role in ensuring parents feel equipped to have these conversations when they arise – especially as young people are ready to talk at home about their online lives.”

Safer Internet Day is supported by thousands of UK organisations, from sectors ranging from education and policing to business and charities, who are running activities right across the UK. They join the UK Safer Internet Centre in its mission to promote the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology, working to support young people and those that support them. The UK Safer Internet Centre, the organiser of Safer Internet Day in the UK, is hosting an event today (7 Feb), run directly by young people, for policymakers, industry experts and the wider online safety community to place youth agency at the heart of advocating for positive change in their online safety.

“Many children in my school believe that it is equally important to learn about passwords and how to use the internet safely, as well as learning English and Maths.” (Childnet Digital Leader, age 11)

Encouragingly, more than seven in ten (72%) of young people say their parents and carers talk to them about their life online, including being safe online. The research also shows overwhelmingly that parents and carers are the first port of call to young people if they are troubled by something online. This applies across issues as diverse as unwanted contact, bullying, scams, or fake news. For example, 83% of young people in Wales say they would turn to their parents or carers if they were contacted by someone who makes them feel uncomfortable.

While it’s positive that dialogue is happening at home, young people, parents and carers tell us there is scope for more and better conversations. Young people recognise they can play a role in online safety, with more than half (55%) keen to educate their parents about being safe online. Meanwhile, 73% of parents and carers in Wales want to speak with their children about online safety more easily and often.

 

Navigating online safety in the classroom

As well as at home, conversations around online safety are important at school. Positively, 72% of children and young people say they have regular online safety lessons at school. 63% of young people find these lessons useful, showing the critical role that teachers and schools play.

However, while online safety education is proving extremely helpful for many people, 63% of young people feel online safety education in schools could be better, with a quarter (25%) stating that these lessons don’t allow them to discuss the issues they are worried about. This further highlights the need to pay closer attention to understanding what young people most want and need to talk about when it comes to discussing their online lives at school.

Encouragingly, young people are keen to play their part in the classroom, with almost half (44%) of young people saying they can make a difference in supporting and promoting being safe online at school.

Peer-to-peer conversation is also important in helping young people navigate their online lives. Most young people feel they could talk to other friends if they were worried about another friend (75%) online or something else they came across online (79%). Furthermore, they want to support each other; more than half (56%) say they feel they can help their friends know more about being safe online.

 

Conversations about young people’s lives are more important than ever

The online world’s influence on young people’s daily lives is ever-increasing. 88% of young people in Wales aged 8-17 said they go online at least twice a day, with 45% going online to talk to friends, 48% going online to play games and more than half (54%) going online to watch videos, for example, on YouTube or TikTok.

Reassuringly, children and young people feel that they have a responsibility to others when it comes to life online, with more than two-thirds (69%) saying they have a responsibility to report when they see something or someone being offensive, mean, or nasty online, and 62% wanting to act and support others in being safe online.

However, while it is clear many young people understand the necessity of conversations about life online, only 24% of young people have ever reported something or someone online for worrying or bad behaviour, either by reporting through a specific site, speaking to a trusted adult or telling a friend. This reveals the need for more and better conversations with young people about how often and why they may not be speaking with anyone about something that troubles them online.

 

Making space for conversations online

While conversations about being safe online are already taking place at home and in the classroom, the research shows there is still a way to go.

Most young people (62%) want to act and support others in being safe online, with almost a half (43%) saying they want to report something and someone online more easily. More than one-third (37%) say that having more support from the online industry about online safety education would make life online more enjoyable and safer for all.

Young people also suggest ways in which online platforms and Government could help them have a voice, with 17% of young people expressing support for a young person’s forum in parliament dedicated to being safe online and more than a fifth (21%) of young people in Wales saying they would like relevant media to have a section run by young people dedicated to being safe online.

 

UKSIC Director, Will Gardner OBE, says:

For Safer Internet Day this year, we are putting the voice of young people front and centre, and these responses really highlight that youth voice is key both in and out of the home. Our research also makes clear that young people want to play their part in online safety, in school, with their parents and carers, and online. Our hope for this Safer Internet Day is that it will help inspire crucial conversations, and encourage young people to speak up, and that we all listen, so we can ensure we are supporting all young people online as best we can and work with them so we can make the online environment safer for all.”

 

Cosima, Age 16, a Childnet Digital Leader and Champion for Safer Internet Day 2023, says:

“Safer Internet Day shines a light on the daily issues that young people from all backgrounds face, creating a platform for them to be heard by change agents. When coming from young people, issues like internet safety, which are so often cast aside as inconsequential or unachievable due to their scale, can’t be ignored. When it comes from voices of the future and the most vulnerable in society – people must listen, which is what sets Safer Internet Day apart.

We are calling for tighter regulation of content online and increased responsibility from organisations so that the internet can revert to being a space for education and communication instead of unachievable standards and unrest.”