Australian parents are now more worried about their children using social media and technology than drugs, alcohol and smoking, frontline youth service ReachOut found.

ReachOut CEO Jono Nicholas said the findings from a survey of nearly 900 Australian parents of children aged 12-to-18 also saw them rank cyberbullying as the biggest negative with social media use.

“This is the issue of our time. When we are asking parents, schools and governments to do more, we must also ask social media companies to come to the party,” Mr Nicholas said.

With 97 per cent of young Australians (18-25) active on social media*, Mr Nicholas said these global corporations had an obligation to do more to protect Australians using their products, just like cars.

“When Australian parents say they are significantly more concerned about their children using social media and technology than drugs, alcohol and smoking (43% compared with 25% respectively), it’s not good enough for social media companies to tell us they are doing enough.

“Social media is the car of the 21st century – it’s opened us up to a new world of possibilities, but we’re now grappling with the tragic consequences this technology is increasingly imposing on our everyday lives.”

Mr Nicholas said, like cars, it was often careless actions of others that were so dangerous on social media, whose technology was making it “too easy” for bullies to harass Australians anywhere, anytime. Mr Nicholas called on them to work with frontline services like ReachOut to develop a proactive, industry-led solution.

“Car manufacturers are now required to install safety features like seatbelts and airbags because of the serious risk to other innocent parties, not just the driver at fault – why is social media any different?

“Cyberbullying is a digital problem, and therefore we need a digital response. We are drawing a line in the sand today. We can do all the education and prevention we like but unless social media companies become part of the solution nothing will change.”

Mr Nicholas urged young people and parents to visit if they were dealing with cyberbullying right now or keen to learn more about how to minimise risk of it occurring.

Key Findings

  • Over 40 per cent of parents were worried about their children’s social media and technology use.
  • Mums and dads were also equally concerned about the negative impacts of social media and technology use on their children, at 45 per cent and 42 per cent respectively.
  • This is compared to the 25 per cent of parents holding concerns about traditional risks to young people around alcohol, drugs and smoking.
  • When asked specifically to name their top negatives with social media, parents nominated cyber bullying and harassment as their biggest negative (38%), followed by unproductive/time consuming (37%); upsetting/restricted content (20%); and peer pressure/bad influences (14%).
  • Parents also reported their children overwhelmingly turned to them for help with handling bullying cases (63%), despite over half (56%) not being fully-confident of where to seek help.

5 Tips for parents whose child is experiencing cyber bullying

  1. Make sure they know how to block, delete or report anyone who is upsetting them online.
  2. Stay up to date with the social media they’re using and how it works.
  3. Talk regularly about online issues and tell them they can come to you no matter what (even if they’ve broken the rules).
  4. Although it’s pretty normal now to have online friends, get your teen to think about the type of people they’re friends with.
  5. Treat cyberbullying as a serious issue so they don’t stay quiet if it happens to them or their friends.

Research methodology

Survey of 890 parents with a least one child aged 12-18 years. Data collected December 2017.

Quotas: 125 parents with a child aged 12; 125 parents with a child aged 13; 125 parents with a child aged 14; 125 parents with a child aged 15; 125 parents with a child aged 16; 125 parents with a child aged 17; 125 parents with a child aged 18.

Nationally representative by state/territory and metropolitan/non-metropolitan area. Nationally representative by gender.

*Australian social media use


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