Tips & Advice

1 out of 3 kids in the U.S. have had bad online experiences during lockdown

Emma McGowan, 7 October 2020

Avast research shows that taking kids out of the schoolyard doesn’t eliminate schoolyard problems

Technology has made it possible for millions of children to comply with social distancing by providing a means for them to see family, socialize, and even go to school. But technology isn’t immune to the problems of the physical world. According to a new survey from Avast, one third of children under the age of 12 in the US (32%) have had bad experiences online during lockdown.

The issues kids are facing online during lockdown fall under two main umbrellas: Inappropriate contact/content (73% received unsolicited and inappropriate content; 76% received unwanted contact from a stranger) and cyberbullying (78% received unkind messages; 76% received an unkind video call). Another 71% accidentally downloaded a computer virus.

But even though kids are experiencing a higher level of bad stuff online than usual, their parents don’t know about it: 89% reported that they don’t have the confidence to tell their parents what’s going on, despite the fact that 47% of parents say they’re having more conversations about online safety with their kids since the pandemic began. The kids’ reasons for not sharing varied, including feeling scared (13%), feeling embarrassed (11%), not wanting to get a friend in trouble (8%), not wanting to lose access to a device (11%), and not recognizing that the incident or content was harmful (11%). 

The numbers illustrate a clear gap between the online experiences of children during the Covid-19 pandemic and what their parents think is going on. Nick Viney, SVP & GM, Avast Partner BU, recommends closing that gap by implementing “a few simple strategies.” 

“Parents should maintain an open conversation with their children and check in on their digital activities as they would ask about a day at school, and engage with them to understand the activities they regularly enjoy online like content, games and social networks,” Viney says. “Balance parental concern with teaching proper online habits, smart choices, and continued family communication.”

Here are some tips for helping your kids navigate this new digital world:

Educate yourself about their online world

Accept that your kids know more about the internet than you do. But don’t take that as a defeat — take it as a challenge. Educate yourself about which apps kids are using, which social media they’re into, and what draws their attention online. You’d do the same with their social lives at school and their after school activities, right? Consider this to be the 2020 version of that.

Have “the talk”

No, not that talk, although this one can sometimes feel just as awkward. This talk is about online safety, privacy, and cyberbullying. What’s okay behavior online? What’s totally unacceptable? Your kids are looking to you for guidance in this world, just like they do in the “real” world. Be prepared to give it to them.

Utilize parental controls

Open communication with your kids is essential, but you can (and probably should) utilize parental controls to draw digital boundaries as well. Look into both network-level and device-level controls for best results. 


Further reading:
Back to (home) school: Preparing for continued distance learning
6 tried-and-true steps for staying safe online when going back to school


Resist getting angry

As upsetting as some of your kids’ choices might be, it’s important to resist getting angry with them. Not only is it possible that whatever happened was an accident, but they’ll also be less likely to come to you with future bad experiences if they’re worried about you getting mad. Stay calm and approachable and they’re more likely to share moving forward.

Make a plan for preparing your kids for digital independence

Digital independence is that beautiful moment when you no longer have to monitor everything your kid does online. But it’s such a new thing that many parents aren’t sure how to prepare their kid for it. You’ve made a good start by having “the talk,” but stay tuned to this space for more direction on how to truly prepare your kids for digital independence.