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Australian Children Exposed to Greater Risks Online than European Children

Four hundred Australian children (9 to 16 years old) and their parents, were interviewed for an Australian study about risks and safety for children on the internet. And by comparing the results of this survey with a larger European survey, it was found that Australian children are among the “youngest and most prolific users of the internet in the world.”

One of the conclusions of the AU Kids Online report was that although Australian children have a higher degree of access to the internet than their European peers, they are also exposed to a higher degree of risk. The survey also found that Australian children are much more likely to go online using a portable handheld device like a smartphone, making parental supervision more difficult.

Parents who want to supervise their children online and offline face a challenge – and while there are some myths about internet safety that are unhelpful, it is important for parents to understand the type of risks their children may be exposed to if unsupervised.
The following risks were identified in both the Australian Report and the European study by EU Kids Online :

Sexual Images: more than 44% of Australian children said they had encountered sexual images in the past 12 months. This was an online and offline figure combined but it was nearly double the European average of 25%. And nearly 28% of Australian children said they had seen sexual images online – 49% of those children said their parents had not seen this.

Sexual Messages: 15% of Australian children said they had received sexual messages or “sexts” with 4% of those messages being received online.

Bullying: 29% of Australian children said they had been bullied and 13% said this had happened on the internet. But in Europe only 6% of children said they had been bullied online.

Meeting Online Contacts Offline: a huge 34% of Australian children said they have had contact online with someone they have not met offline (the average in Europe is 30%). On the other hand only 5% of Australian children said they have had in person meetings with someone they first met online compared to a figure of 9% in Europe.

Viewing Harmful Content: 34% of Australian children have seen potentially harmful user-generated content (ranking 6 out of 26 countries when compared to Europe). Harmful content took into account a child’s age and included content such as drug use sites or sexually explicit content.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority is responsible for what is called a 'co-regulatory' system of addressing community concerns about offensive and illegal material online and protecting children from exposure to material that is unsuitable for them. Their article Do You Know How to Keep Your Children Safe Online? provides some ideas for parents. Links to further helpful article and videos for parents and children are in the Further Information section below this article.

image freedigitalphotos.net Clare Bloomfield