Prevention exists in many forms, and different stakeholders can take on different responsibilities in implementing preventative measures. At INHOPE, we like to highlight the role of industry in developing age-appropriate preventative resources, as we believe tech companies bear the power and therefore responsibility to create platforms that are safe by design. However, they are not alone We are part of an educational ecosystem and consequently responsible for protecting young users from harm online.
Besides peers and teachers, parents remain the strongest and most direct influence on their children's behaviour, safety and development. This is why it is crucial that parents appropriately educate their children about digital safety, explain all the associated risks, teach them how to recognise signs of abuse and instil a sense of caution when it comes to sharing private information online.
A recent study now shows that the effect of parental influence might be even stronger than we previously thought. Research findings demonstrated that parental supervision can be a determinating factor in children's digital safety. The study's results suggest that parental supervision of kids' digital usage can halt the progression of an online grooming attempt. Children whose online activity is monitored by their parents are less likely to fall victim to an online grooming offender. This correlation might be attributed to the fact that groomers perceive the presence of parents as an increased risk of being detected and are therefore more likely to refrain from further solicitation attempts.
Active and passive supervision
The research findings indicate that active parental supervision is the most reliable in deterring online sexual offenders. Monitoring kids' digital usage by overlooking their daily activity, restricting age-inappropriate accesses and remaining involved in what kids are doing online is considered active parental supervision. But the pace at which our digital landscape is evolving understandably leaves some parents and guardians overwhelmed with monitoring their children's online activity. Many feel lost in the sea of new applications and technological developments and don't feel appropriately equipped to understand their kid's digital interests and use.
The good news revealed by the study is that even the smallest amount of parental supervision strongly influences kids' safety. Passive supervision - just being in the same room as a minor using a computer or mobile device - can drastically decrease the threat of online abuse.
Until the digital landscape has caught up completely in that all online experiences are age-appropriate and safe, it is important that we educate parents, teachers and guardians on how effective even the lightest form of monitoring can be. While many resources focus on providing support to children once abuse has occurred, it is important to teach parents that there are ways to decrease the threat of abuse before it happens.