Only about half of New Zealand children aged 5 to 10 are aware of the dangers of speaking to online friends and a fifth of those would like to meet them in real life, new research shows.
The research by YouGov, commissioned by Vodafone, also found only 59 per cent of parents believed they were getting enough support in teaching children about internet safety.
Despite this, 38 per cent of parents were planning to buy internet-enabled devices for children aged under 4 this Christmas.
The study also found 63 per cent of respondents aged 5 to 10 used internet-enabled devices like laptops, tablets and smartphones, and 36 per cent of children aged under 5 were using smartphones.
By the age of six, 78 per cent of New Zealand children were using the internet – but only 44 per cent of children understood it was not alright to look at any video or photo on the internet.
The research was commissioned to support the introduction of Vodafone’s Digital Facts of Life cybersafety kit for parents of young children.
The kit uses Moshi Monsters to help parents discuss internet safety with 5- to 10-year-olds; a critical age when cybersafety behaviour is being established.
It is based on five messages, researched extensively by parenting experts and converted into fun games for children. The kit will be available free from all Vodafone retail stores in time for Christmas.
There were countless benefits that could be gained from using technology, but parents needed more help talking to their children about cybersafety and risks, said Vodafone external affairs director Tom Chignell.
“Only half of the children surveyed know that it’s safer to speak to real friends than online friends, so there is still some work to do to ensure our Kiwi kids are properly educated.
“Many more children will be unwrapping smartphones and tablets on Christmas Day, so we want to ensure parents have the tools to provide expert education.”
NetSafe chief technology officer Sean Lyons said there was a difference between simply understanding how to use technology and using it safely and responsibly.
“The earlier we begin to talk with children about what it means to be a good digital citizen, the more likely they are to pick up the understanding and the skills they need to function successfully in a society that is so reliant on our online interactions.”
He said resources like the new kit were a great step in providing young people and parents with a way to start conversations around online safety early, which would improve children’s chances of learning to deal with challenging situations online.