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Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind: Australian Parents Not Doing Enough To Protect Children Online

17 March, 2010 | Sydney, Australia

New research from Microsoft reveals online safety is a key concern for Aussie parents – but most fail to do anything about it

New research*, released today by Microsoft Australia, has revealed that 65 percent of Australian parents do not take any precautions to protect their children online.

Microsoft's "For Safety's Sake" research, found that while two thirds of Australian parents surveyed are concerned about  the safety of their kids online, more than 60 percent of parents allow their children to surf the net unsupervised and unrestricted at home.

Not surprisingly, one fifth of all  Australian  parents surveyed have caught their children looking at unsavoury material online, almost one third have found their children chatting to strangers, 36 percent have caught their kids downloading software without permission and another 12 percent have found their children handing over personal details.

Despite two thirds of parents surveyed allowing their children free reign to the web at home, most believe that online danger is more likely to occur at a friend's house (52 percent).

The survey revealed that in spite of concerns for online safety we are still not doing enough to educate and help protect our children;

  • More than two thirds of Australian parents admit they know only a few of their children's online friends; another 11 percent admit they are totally in the dark, knowing none of their children's online friends;
  • Only half of all parents (58 percent) house the computer in a public area of the home;
  • 20 percent of parents have not discussed online safety with their children;
  • More than 60 percent of parents are aware their computer has parental control software available – yet less than a third of all parents monitor their children's activity online.

"Don't be in the dark about your children's online lives. The Internet opens a new world of information, socialising and entertainment for children - but it also presents new risks - such as online predators, personal information disclosure, exposure to inappropriate content in web sites, messages, file downloads and within games and audio/video multimedia. For adults, the risks may be controlled by filtering technologies but protecting children while they are using computers can be quite challenging," said Stuart Strathdee, Chief Security Advisor, Microsoft Australia.

"Surfing the internet can and should be fun and educational, without compromising the child's safety. There are lots of simple things that you can do in the home to help foster online safety – several tips are included on the Windows AU blog. Another way is by using a form of parental control software. Microsoft has included a rich and powerful set of parental control features within Windows 7, to help parents monitor, manage, and administer their children's computer use—and help keep them safe."

Windows 7 Parental Controls are designed to put parents' minds at ease and give them confidence in their ability to manage what their children can do on the computer. Parental Controls in Windows 7 help parents determine which games their children can play, which programs they can use, and which websites they can visit—and when. Parents can restrict computer use to specific times and trust that Windows 7 will enforce those restrictions, even when they're away from home.

"If your child uses the internet at home you already know how important it is to help protect them from inappropriate content and contact," said Ben McIntosh, National Business Manager, Computers and Communication at Harvey Norman.

"It's important that policies set by a parent are enforced without being able to be easily altered by children. The same is true for tampering with activity logging information that may be essential for a parent to have sufficient information to set and maintain effective policies.

"The Parental Controls included in Windows 7 can help you create a safer online environment for your children - without invading their privacy or breaking trust... from the one location, you can configure the parental controls for your computer and applications, setting appropriate limits on your children's game playing, web browsing, and overall computer use," he concluded.

Windows 7 offers a range of ways that parents can monitor and limit how their child uses the computer, at no additional cost:

  • Web Restrictions – Using an online service, a parent can restrict what types of web sites their child can visit, either by category (eg. My child cannot go to pornographic sites, or gambling sites), or specific URL to determine what sites are allowed and which are not. These restrictions will work automatically with any web browser.
  • Game Restrictions – Partnering with Computer Game rating systems from around the world, Windows 7 allows a parent to restrict the types of computer games that their child can play.
  • Application Restrictions – If a parent chooses, they can apply limits so their child can only run the applications that the parent has approved.
  • Time Limits - Parents can decide when children are allowed, or not allowed, to use the computer by choosing the specific times and days to block. The child then receives a 15-minute and a 1-minute notification that their time is about to expire, and if their time ends before they log off the computer, Windows 7 suspends their session and displays the logon screen so another user can use the computer. The child's session stays active in the background, however, so the next time they log on, they can pick up where they left off without losing any of their work.

Parental Controls also enable you to monitor your children's computer behaviour so it's easy to keep track of what they are seeing, hearing, and doing via easy-to-read activity reports, and can refine and modify parental controls based on actual feedback. 

Australian parent Cathy Dovgan has been using Windows 7 on her family computer since December 2009. "My children's safety is paramount, whether they're walking to school or surfing the web. With Microsoft's Windows 7 parental controls we can set the level of usage and watch over online activities, so we feel comfortable that our children are using the internet safely," said Ms Dovgan.

For more information on Parental Controls, please visit: Windows 7 Parental Controls.

Microsoft also supports online education through its partnership with The Australian Federal Police - recently launching school-based cyber safety program, ThinkUKnow. The program aims to educate children throughout Australia about cyber-safety and security, and encourage them to think before they act online. More information can be found at: ThinkUKnow Website

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To arrange an interview, or for further media information, please contact:

Kathryn Colliton
Howorth
P: 02 8281 3812 or 0410 583 205
E: kathryn@howorth.com.au

Rudolf Wagnaar
Howorth
P: 02 8281 3879 or 0439 082 550
E: rudolf@howorth.com.au

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