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Study: Parents underestimate online risks for their children

Teens are exposed to many more online risks than their parents realize (photo: CC0 Public Domain)

Over two thirds (69%) by the participants in a survey of Microsoft for children’s online safety share that they have faced some form of online risk in the past year. The most common types of risk globally are misinformation and multiple forms of personal insultscyberbullying, hate speech and threats of violence.

The United Kingdom (50%) and Germany (56%) were the least likely to experience online risk, while the Philippines (86%) and Chile (79%) experienced the most risk. Parents often underestimate the online dangers that endanger teenagers in all categories, the study found.

Teens are exposed to far more online risks than their parents realize: 74% of teens have experienced some kind of risk, while only 62% of parents suspect it—a difference of as much as 12 percentage points.

Furthermore, parents underestimated the dangers in all categories: the biggest gaps were related to hate speech, followed by threats of violence, exposure to content related to suicide or self-harm, and cyberbullying and bullying. As an example, while 39% of teenagers have encountered hate speech online, only 29% of parents report that their children have encountered it.

The situation is similar when it comes to threats of violence: 19% of teenagers have faced it, while parents who know are only 11%. The study also found that teenagers are more concerned about future threats of violence than their parents.

The majority of teenagers (60%) do not hide the risk they face on the Internet: 71% of affected youth share their experiences with their parents, 32% with friends, and 14% with other adults.

Most parents say they take a variety of steps to keep their kids safe online, including checking their kids’ profiles and data and reviewing their daily activity. They also try to talk to them regularly about their online activity.

The survey shows that parents generally view safety features as powerful tools to help their children stay safe online. 81% share that they themselves use at least one such type of tool.

It also found that parents of younger children (ages 6-12) were much more likely to use platform-based security tools (average 4.4) compared to parents of teenagers (3.5 ). Parents find tools to review their children’s friend requests (71%) and control online spending (69%) most effective.

The study confirms that all actors – technology companies, governments, citizens and families – must continue to work together for a safer internet. The four pillars of digital security, according to Microsoft, are platform architecture, content moderation, culture and collaboration.

Security by design is of paramount importance in both the platform architecture and the generation of security features for families. The enforcement of security-related rules through clear policies and consistent, proportionate measures is also crucial for consumer protection.

The vast majority of respondents agree with all of these goals, with 85% expecting moderation of illegal content (28%) and legal but harmful content (57%).

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