Mind the Gap: Parental awareness of children’s exposure to risks online

February 8, 2022

The internet offers children valuable opportunities to connect with peers, play, learn, be entertained, be creative and seek information. Yet going online also poses risks to children, including cyberbullying, exposure to harmful material, and the potential for online grooming.

Supporting children to safely navigate these risks and avoid being harmed, while enabling them to develop the skills they need to thrive in an increasingly digital world, is one of the greatest parenting challenges of our time.

In 2021, eSafety commissioned research to explore the opportunities and risks that the internet presents for children in Australia. The research was conducted in August–September 2021 and comprised a national survey of over 3,500 young people aged 8 to 17 and their parents. The survey was an adaptation of the Global Kids Online quantitative methodology.

Findings from this research will inform eSafety’s ongoing online safety programs, including future interventions to assist children to better identify and seek help for online harms, and to assist parents to support their children. This research also aims to contribute to the international evidence base on children’s internet use and is eSafety’s first publication as a member of Global Kids Online.

Mind the Gap: Parental awareness of children’s exposure to risks online starts with a snapshot of children’s online lives. It then explores what parents know – and don’t know – about their children’s online experiences. Finally, the report looks at digital parenting practices and their effects on children’s internet use.

Overall, the data shows that children experience many benefits from using the internet, and that those who have had negative experiences online feel empowered and knowledgeable about the actions they can take in response. Parents have an important role to play, and they are rising to the challenge, with parental awareness and digital parenting having increased since 2016. However, there remain significant gaps in parental awareness of children’s online lives – particularly in relation to children’s exposure to potentially harmful online content. The findings suggest that digital parenting needs to evolve as children grow older, in order to better respond to children’s encounters with harmful content online.

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About the Provider

eSafety Commissioner
The eSafety Commissioner (eSafety) is Australia’s independent regulator for online safety. We are the world’s first government agency dedicated to keeping people safer online. We started our operations in 2015 and we have remained at the forefront of the fight against online abuse and harm ever since.


Cyberbullying, Digital parenting, eSafety