Do it early and without fear - that's the advice an internet
safety expert has for parents worried about how and when they
should address concerns about their children's online
Stephen Balkam, founding chief executive of the US-based
Family Online Safety Institute, is visiting the country as a
speaker at a conference hosted by NetSafe and opening in
His seminar tomorrow covers a range of issues facing
society's growing use of the internet, from the advent of
"digital citizenship" to problems including cyber-bullying,
addiction and sexting.
Mr Balkam told the Herald his talk would also look at
startling findings released by his organisation this month.
The study found large differences between what parents know
about their teens' social networking use on sites, such as
Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, and the level of monitoring
their children knew of.
It found 70 per cent of parents checked their teens' text
messages on their phones but 70 per cent of teens were
unaware of it, and while about 84 per cent of parents said
they monitored online useage, just 39 per cent of teens were
aware they were being spied on.
Just 14 per cent of teens thought their parents were well
informed about what they were doing on Twitter and while 95
per cent of teens reported feeling safe online, 94 per cent
of parents disagreed with them.
Parents saw stranger danger as their top worry.
The US study, which did not make global comparisons, comes as
55 schools in the Auckland and Northland region were found to
be linked to school-themed Facebook pages run by students,
with 26 linked by the student users to graphic sexual
material, profanity, alcohol or drug-use at school or
tormenting of other students.
In the US, the number of young people suffering
cyber-bullying ranged from 15 per cent to 60 per cent,
although the rate remained lower than the prevalence of
physical or "offline" bullying, Mr Balkam said.
That compared with one in five New Zealand high school
students who reported being cyber-bullied in a 2007 survey.
For Kiwi parents whose kids were being targeted, he said the
best step was reporting the bullying - both to website
administrators and the school.
And for mums and dads unsure of how to address their concerns
around the internet, Mr Balkam encouraged working with their
kids as early as possible - and not against them.
"If you come at your kids with fear, they are just going to
switch off and think you don't know what you're talking
about," he said.
"It's important for parents not to overreact, to try to calm
down a little bit, and not let fear get in the way of
reasoning. This after all is their future - we are never
going to go back to the 1950s ... so parents have to find
Cyber-bullying is one of many issues this week's conference,
drawing more than 100 delegates and themed Our Community: Our
Challenge, seeks to address.
NetSafe chief executive Martin Cocker said the overall aim
was to find better solutions, including strengthening
controls individuals have over their personal information and
giving scam victims a greater chance of recovering lost
"We as a community need to work together to develop
- Jamie Morton, New Zealand Herald