New research by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International reveals that 28% of parents in South Africa feel they have no control over what their children see or do online, with 41% concerned that their children’s Internet-dependency is becoming an addiction. Added to this, many adults worry that their own, digitally-active parents and grandparents could be equally vulnerable.
Meanwhile, 47% of respondents in South Africa believe that the threats their children face online are increasing. The top concern is the risk of kids encountering inappropriate or explicit content (52%), with 55% convinced that kids have unrestricted access to such content.
Other worries include the likelihood of kids coming across and communicating with dangerous strangers (43%) and sharing too much personal information about themselves (49%). 42% of those surveyed locally are afraid that kids can become addicted to the Internet and spend too much time online.
The risk of kids encountering, and probably failing to recognise, malware is a major concern for 37% of parents in South Africa. What is more surprising and worrying is that cyber-bullying, which can have such a devastating and long-term impact on young people’s lives, is listed as a serious concern by just 37% of parents.
Alongside these direct threats to children, parents also worry that other members of the family could be affected by kids’ unguarded behaviour online, for example through the accidental deletion or loss of data (32%), or by incurring unexpected costs (32%) through in-app purchases in online games and more.
Adding to the burden of adult concern is the fact that 46% have parents locally who use the Internet, worry about the risks their parents might encounter and be unable to deal with. Respondents with digitally-active grandparents (8% of those surveyed) regard them as even more vulnerable, with 5% of respondents overall – worried about what these older relatives might come across.
Top concerns for more mature Internet users include the risk of encountering malware (59%) or fake web sites and emails (64%); losing money through fraud and criminal activity (64%); being hit by scams (64%); or even being spied on (38%). In line with the list of top fears for kids online, coming across dangerous strangers (32%) and explicit content (26%) also rank high on the list of dangers facing older people.
“Being protective is a parental instinct, but the online landscape is changing the rules,” says David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. “Our survey reveals that many parents fear that the number of threats facing their kids online is increasing, with so much unregulated content available.
“Worryingly, the study shows that every fifth parent takes no action to keep kids safe and more than half (58%) do not even talk with them about online threats. With a significant number of adults also worrying about the threats facing inexperienced older relatives online, particularly in the form of scams and malware, it is important that these parents under pressure have the software and support they need to keep their loved ones secure.”
Kaspersky Lab urges parents to take an approach that combines a comprehensive security solution with education and communication. A family-focused software solution is the ultimate safety net, protecting kids effectively when parents are not around or from threats adults may not yet be aware of; but it is equally important that children – and older relatives – understand how to protect themselves.
This requires knowing what to look out for, how to block unwanted approaches and how to avoid distressing content. Most of all, Kaspersky Lab advises parents (and older kids) to combine software and education with an open dialogue about online risk and behaviour.