Global study finds almost all parents worldwide recognize their role as their child’s online protector but reveals gap between intent and effort
McAfee Corp., a global leader in online protection, released its first-ever Global Connected Family Study, which surveyed 15,500 parents and more than 12,000 of their children in ten countries to understand how they connect and protect themselves and their loved ones online. The 2022 Connected Family Study uncovers stark differences globally in attitudes and actions families take to protect their loved ones and explains how those most vulnerable may be left under-protected.
The study, aligned with McAfee’s strategy to protect connected families, not just devices, and timed ahead of the United Nations International Day of Families on May 15th, revealed parents take more precautions, such as installing antivirus software, using password protection, or sticking to reputable online stores when shopping, on their own devices than they do on their children’s connected devices. For instance, while 56% of parents said that they protect their smartphone with a password or passcode, only 42% said they do the same for their child’s smartphone.
“Ninety percent of parents recognize their role as protectors online, just as they recognize their responsibility to protect their children in the broader world. This data aims to bring light to actions they can take to counteract some of the risk in online activities for kids,” said Sachin Puri, Vice President of Marketing, McAfee. “As a key part of this research study, we want to equip parents with the knowledge necessary to succeed as effective online protectors for their connect families.”
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“As a key part of this research study, we want to equip parents with the knowledge necessary to succeed as effective online protectors for their connect families.”
The 2022 McAfee Connected Family Study
McAfee uncovered several universal beliefs about online protection as well as tensions between parents and children when it comes to staying safe online. Globally, four topics emerged:
1. Mobile Maturity: At what age are kids beginning their digital existence?
- Adult-grade internet usage starts early, as do the risks that can follow. By 15-16 years old, teens hit their online stride and mobile usage jumps significantly, so much so that it approaches levels that they will carry into adulthood.
- Children want to feel safe online, and 73% of children surveyed look to parents more than any other resource for help with online safety.
- By age 17 to 18, reports of cyberbullying increase to 18%, attempted theft of an online account to 16%, and unauthorized use of personal data to 14%.
2. Parents as Safekeepers: Are parents effectively protecting their children online?
- Families universally accept parents’ role in keeping children safe online, but parents struggle to deliver.
- On PCs and laptops, parents reported limited online protection measures they took for themselves, despite the availability and ease of use involved with these measures—yet these measures drop even lower when asked if they took similar precautions for their children.
- While 56% of parents said that they protect their smartphone with a password or passcode, only 42% said they do the same for their child’s smartphone—a further 14% drop.
3. Secret Lives of Teens and Tweens Online: What exactly are tweens and teens doing online?
- Children and teens want privacy and protection as they build their connected lives.
- From clearing browser history to omitting details about what they are doing online, more than half of children (59%) act to hide their online activity.
- Regarding general activity, parents and their children worldwide see eye to eye on the top three activities of tweens and teens online.
- Watching short videos (YouTube) – parents think, 66%; kids say 67%
- Browsing the internet – parents think, 64%; kids say 66%
- Streaming music – parents think, 53%; kids say 55%
4. Gendered Protection Bias: Do girls experience more dangers online?
- Parents appear to see boys and girls differently when it comes to protecting them online. An apparent gender bias finds girls more protected than boys, yet it’s boys who encounter more issues online.
- Girls aged 10-14 were more likely than boys of the same age to have parental controls on PCs/laptops in almost every country surveyed, and boys are more likely to hide their activity from parents.
- 23% of parents say they will check the browsing and email history on the PCs of their daughters aged 10 to 14, and for boys 10 to 14, it’s only 16%. The disparity appears again, with 22% of parents restricting access to certain sites for girls and only 16% for boys.
Globally, a closer look across nations uncovers several regional distinctions in mobile maturity, the gender gap, and levels of parental concern about risks.
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These findings include:
- While the United States had the highest cyberbullying rate (28%) and high exposure to online risks, India had the highest exposure to online risks out of any country surveyed and some of the earliest mobile maturity.
- The United Kingdom showed less engagement about online safety and some of the least protected children with only 44% of parents being worried about how much screen time their children are getting, 13% below the global average, and Canada lagged in parental action and confidence in parents to protect kids online at a 6% lower rate than the global average.
- Parents in Germany are amongst the least concerned and least controlling when it comes to online security for their children, with their fears about exposure to cyberbullying via social media a full 19% lower than the international average, and Japanese children cite the lowest rates of cyberbullying and online risks. For instance, attempted account theft was a full 12% lower than the global rate for children in Japan.
- Children in Mexico report the highest rate of gaming worldwide (61%), along with the highest perceived importance of gaming consoles (70%), and Brazil had the highest reported mobile usage among children and teens at an overall rate of 96%.
“We want parents to know there are tools and resources available to foster safe and healthy online activity for their families while also being made aware of the habits that can increase the risk of instances like cyberbullying or cyberattacks,” said Gagan Singh, Executive Vice President, Chief Product and Revenue Officer, McAfee. “In addition to the Global Connected Family Study, McAfee offers tools like McAfee Total Protection for families which gives parents the ability to monitor device activity, limit screen time, block apps and filter websites to help add an additional layer of protection.”
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What can connected families do next?
- Create an environment for open and transparent conversations about online activity. Understanding the habits and behaviors of family members online will help guide how best to approach and protect family units—whether that be limiting time on gaming devices or installing software.
- Educate children about dangerous online behaviors such as clearing chat history or visiting unsafe sites. Educating children about cyberbullying or online theft could keep them and their connected family safe in the future.
- Make a family plan in the event of cyber bullying, theft of an online account, or unauthorized use of personal data to ensure safety is a priority and planning is in place.
- Enlist in added security programs like McAfee Total Protection for families to set device rules, monitor activity, and block unwanted websites or apps.