Towards a Safer Use of the Internet for Children in the EU

Feb 19, 2009

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A very enlightening analytical report has come out of the European Union, conducted by the Gallup Organization, upon the request of Directorate General Information Society and Media. You can read the full report here.

This survey was designed to study parents views about their children's use of the Internet, to determine parents strategies to supervise their child's Internet usage and their own awareness of safety measures.

Some results of note:

  • Half of the parents who did not use the Internet themselves said that their child had online access. Nine out of 10 children — who were Internet users — accessed it from home.   
  • The biggest risk in parents eyes (65%) was that their child might see sexually or violently explicit images on the Internet: 45% were very worried.   
  • Parents in all countries mentioned that they have various rules and restrictions when their child used the Internet. For example, approximately eight out of 10 parents listed online shopping, talking to people that their child did not know in real life and spending a lot of time online as activities that were not allowed for their child.    
  • Almost three out of 10 Dutch parents (28%) and a quarter of the parents in the UK (24%) said that, when their child asked for their help, this was because they had been contacted by a stranger, were bullied or harassed online or saw violently or sexually explicit images online.  

On the use of monitoring and filtering software

  • Half of the parents participating in this survey answered that they had installed filtering software on the computer that their child used at home. Monitoring software was not as popular, but was still used by almost four out of 10 parents (37%).    
  • There was considerable variation across countries in the use of monitoring and filtering software: more than half of the British parents used such software compared to only 5% of the parents in Romania and Bulgaria.  

Reasons for not using monitoring and filtering software

  • More than six out of 10 parents — who did not use filtering or monitoring software — simply saw no need for such software since they trusted their child on the Internet. Fourteen percent of the parents who did not use filtering or monitoring software did not know how to obtain or use it. Only a minority (3%) did not use such software because they did not believe in its efficiency. 

There are many observations that come from reading this detailed look across the countries that make up the EU about cultural differences and parental perspectives. One that sticks out to me is how many parents trust their kids on the Internet, without using the Internet themselves. This is a generation gap that must be crossed. As a parent, I find this issue to be particularly troubling. I trust my kids, and I know what TV shows, movies, games and books my kids read or view, I know what friends they are talking to on the phone or whose house they are at...why wouldn't I want to know what they are doing online?