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What keeps digital parents up at night

January 19, 2021

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Sexual content online is parents’ biggest concern for their kids, a new study has found, amid growing demand for a “one-stop-shop” to keep children safe online.

This year, more than ever, we’ve seen the impact of technology on our families. 

With children engaged in distance learning and adults working from home, the pandemic era has seen family screen-time boundaries redrawn - almost overnight. Device usage has surged dramatically for adults and kids alike. But especially for kids.

The implications of all this for online safety have been both profound, with reports of cyberbullying, predator behavior, and addictive gaming reaching, previously unheard-of, new highs.

How parents are coping with this new normal is the subject of a fascinating new study by the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), an international, non-profit organization working to make the online world safer for kids and their families. 

Published last month, “Tools for Today’s Digital Parents” takes an in-depth look at the role of parental controls in the digital lives of American parents and children.

It found that the vast majority of parents (92%) now have some form of house rules around technology - yet most (71%) are dissatisfied with their efforts to keep kids safe online.

The demand for a "one-stop-shop" for digital safety - allowing parents to manage family devices and have visibility over their children's online behavior - was a key finding. shutterstock_93771490

Four in ten parents with children aged 2-11 reported experiencing specific online safety issues that sparked concerns. And their worries are ever-growing, with moms and dads reporting an average of 20 issues of concern, including excessive use, "under-the-radar friend activity," and identity theft.

But by far the greatest of these is kids’ exposure to mature content - with "sexually suggestive content in gaming" the number-one concern among many others related to inappropriate exposure to adult themes.

Perhaps surprising, social media did not loom nearly as large as a safety issue as worries around gaming - with blocking of in-app purchases emerging as a growing demand.

Yet despite all these concerns, 11% of parents admitted they had never discussed online safety with their children. On a brighter note, 89% did report such conversations and believed they had been helpful.

Researchers also found that digital parenting today follows a path they labeled a “journey towards trust.” Increasingly, parents and caregivers are guiding kids through their initial introductions to technology. 

In this phase, most parents will talk with their kids about online safety and attempt to put some boundaries and house rules in place, often in conjunction with safety tools.

Among the study’s other main findings: 

  • There is a critical need to protect kids aged 7-11 when they are just beginning their digital journey.
  • Parents are feeling overwhelmed keeping up with digital trends, apps, and safety options
  • Parents are expressing urgency around the need for a simple, one-stop-shop solution to online safety 
  • Families are willing to pay for quality parental control tools

Topics: Parental Controls, In-app purchases, Screen Time, Digital Parenting, Online predators, Online Gaming, Gaming Addiction

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