More than one-third of parents approached in the survey admitted they let their children browse the web unsupervised. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Many UAE parents fail to protect their children’s safety or privacy online despite being concerned about the threats they might encounter, according to an online survey.

The findings were shared on Sunday as the highlights of a survey held last October as part of the Norton Cyber Security Insights Report were released.

The survey of 1,059 adults in the UAE shows that 87 per cent of parents believe it is risky to allow their children to use computers and mobile devices without any supervision — yet two in three parents (66 per cent) do not limit access to any websites or apps.

Also, more than one-third of parents in the UAE (34 per cent) let children to browse the web unsupervised. The research indicates at least one in 20 admit they don’t take any action to help protect children online, and may even be unaware of how to do so.

This “hands-off” approach of UAE-based parents has been reported even though one in three (31 per cent) of parents has a child who has been bullied online, or knows someone whose children have been cyber bullied.

Parents’ main concerns regarding their children’s online activities include sharing too much personal information with strangers (84 per cent); being bullied online (83 per cent); being lured into meeting a stranger (82 per cent); and posting content online that will one day come back to haunt them (78 per cent).

As part of the report, parents shared their experiences about managing their children’s online activities and how confident they felt in their own ability to keep their children safe online.

“Reasons for this hands-off approach may vary. Some parents might not know where to start, while others might not be sure how to strike the right balance between protecting their children and respecting their privacy,” said Tamim Taufiq, head of Norton Middle East, which is part of global cyber security firm Symantec.

“We are entering unchartered waters when it comes to parenting today. Technology has reshaped how our children grow up and has rewritten the rules of parenthood. Families are navigating a world where debates about screen time are as important as bedtime, where some parents ban social media or gaming, whilst others watch their children form fast friendships across borders and time zones. In today’s digital world, parents are grappling with how they prepare, protect and empower their children to use technology safely.”

Whilst approaches to digital parenting are varied, many parents still feel ill-equipped to cope with their children’s online lives, the report suggests.

“We should encourage parents to have frank and regular conversations with their children about their online experiences, and reassure them that they are not alone. At the end of the day, all parents are ‘learning on the job’,” Taufiq said.

Survey highlights:

Parents’ main concerns regarding their children’s online activities:

• Spending too much time in front of a screen (87 per cent)

• Sharing too much personal information with strangers (84 per cent)

• Being bullied online (83 per cent)

Parents’ own experience:

• 31 per cent of parents has a child who has been bullied online or knows someone whose children have been cyber-bullied

• 34 per cent indicate either their child’s online activities have compromised their own security or know someone whose children’s activities have had a similar effect

And yet:

• 66 per cent of parents don’t limit access to any websites or apps

• 34 per cent let children browse the web unsupervised

Tips by Norton

1. Establish house rules and guidelines: these can include setting limits to screen time and the type of content a child accesses online

2. Encourage and maintain an open and ongoing dialogue with your children on internet use and experiences, including cyberbullying:

3. Encourage kids to think before they click: whether they’re looking at online video sites, receiving an unknown link in an email or even browsing the web

4. Discuss the risks of posting and sharing private information, videos, and photographs, especially on social media.