“School Should Be Teaching Online Safety” says 80% of Aussie Parents
“School Should Be Teaching Online Safety” says 80% of Aussie Parents

Despite the old adage that it takes a village to raise a child, new research from McAfee shows that an overwhelming majority (80%) of Aussies believe schools should be taking the lead in teaching our kids about online safety. 

At the time of the survey in April 2021, nearly 40% of Aussie households had at least one family member participating in online learning – a number that has most definitely increased in recent months as the Delta variant hit Australian shores causing many schools to shut.  

Aussies Worry about the Risks Online but Many Don’t Take Action 

But despite this turn of circumstances, nearly half (48%) of Aussies didn’t take any proactive security measures to protect their family/home when distance learning was introduced, with 34% saying they saw no increased risk to their children’s online safety. 

Now, here’s the interesting thing – these same respondents nominated in the same survey that they were extremely worried about their kids’ exposure to scams (43%), sharing personal information (43%), illegal content (35%), cyber-bullying (40%) and misinformation (31%). Confusing, I know! 

Aussies Believe Schools Should Be Teaching CyberSafety 

There’s no doubt that managing kids and home learning while trying to keep your day job and keep the household running is an extremely tough gig! In fact, I think thousands of Aussie parents will deserve medals after this chapter in our lives is over! But, I think these statistics aren’t just about being overwhelmed and a lack of energy – as 80% of surveyed Aussies nominated that they believe it is in fact the responsibility of schools to teach our kids how to be safe online. Only 8% considered cyber safety to be the responsibility of the parent. 

If there is anyone who gets just how intense family life can be it’s me! With four boys, 2 cats, a dog (and an action-orientated husband) to manage, I have spent years living in chaos! And I understand that it can often feel like a relief knowing that something can be outsourced or managed by someone else. But, when it comes to something as important as our kids’ online safety, it’s essential that we put that top of our list. Forget about the ironing and focus on your kids’ digital lives instead. I’ve been an advocate of letting body heat remove wrinkles for years! 

My Recommended Action Plan 

Even if your child’s school is teaching digital wellness, it’s imperative that these messages are also reinforced at home. Here’s what I recommend you do to get your family’s digital safety back on track: 

1. Device Check 

Ensure the devices your kids are using for school or homework have up-to-date software and security settings. Software updates are usually designed to address security weaknesses so using outdated software can be quite risky!

2. Password, Password, Passwords!! 

Using weak and default passwords is, without a doubt, one of the easiest ways to get into trouble online. Ensure your kids have complex passwords for EACH of their online accounts and devices. Passwords should contain numbers, special characters and both lower- and upper-case letters. I’m a big fan of a crazy sentence. Why not consider a password manager like McAfee’s free True Key to help them generate and remember their passwords – I know I couldn’t survive without mine!   

3. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) 

Why not consider using a VPN when your kids are accessing online learning services from home to protect the privacy of the internet connection? VPN’s use bank-grade level encryption to stop hackers from stealing personal information like passwords or data.   

4. Teach Personal Responsibility 

With both misinformation and disinformation a major concern for Aussie parents, it’s critical that us parents educate our kids about fake news: how to spot it and why they shouldn’t share it. Encouraging kids to question what they read or watch online before deciding whether it is to be believed and shared will help establish important digital critical thinking skills. 

5. Talk About Digital Safety and Wellness – whenever possible 

I’m a big fan of family dinners, even if it’s a humble bowl of spaghetti bolognese! In my opinion, it’s the perfect time to weave in messages of all types but particularly ones of a digital safety nature. Why not share stories of data breaches and what affected consumers had to do to prevent being hacked? Share news stories about new apps or scams, stories of kindness online, and digital citizenship you’ve witnessed online. Once you start sharing, you’ll likely find your kids want to share their stories too. But always keep calm and interested – otherwise they’ll stop talking!! 

As a mum of four and cybersafety ambassador, I believe that a village approach is the absolute best way of setting our kids up for safe and positive interactions online. So, if you’re feeling unsure about what to tell your kids, spend some time educating yourself. We are lucky enough to have a dedicated eSafety Commissioner here in Australia who has a plethora of resources for Aussie parents. Spend some time checking it out, I promise it will be worth it! 

Till next time, stay safe everyone! 

Alex xx 

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Author Of this post: Cyber Safety Ambassador: Alex Merton-McCann

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