AVG Signal Blog Security AVG News The Birds, Bees, and Bots: Why Parents Are Having "The Talk" Sooner
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The research, conducted globally, found that over two-thirds (70%) of parents worldwide agreed that the internet has accelerated conversations with children about sex, while 88% cited unintentional exposure to adult material as one of their biggest concerns. This was consistent with the feedback from children themselves — 7 out of 10 (71%) admitted to having bad online experiences during lockdown, saying they were exposed to offensive, rude, and adult content. 

The survey also found that more than half of parents globally (54%) had engaged in conversations with their children about sex by the time their child was 10 years old. At the same time, only a third of parents (33%) said they had planned to have this conversation with their child by that age.  

Additional worries arising from increased internet use included children visiting unsuitable or unsafe websites without their parents’ permission (72%); viewing adult content (48%), and being exposed to, or engaging in, sexting (41%).

Sue Atkins, UK Parenting Coach and Expert, said: “It’s clear that more time spent inside and online is increasing the rate at which children are exposed to inappropriate and adult material. Though, from AVG’s findings, it’s positive to understand that parents are having frank and open conversations with their children about sex and relationships at the same time.

“When approaching conversations with children, it’s important to firstly start by understanding what they know already. Give your children the facts, and correct any misinformation they may have encountered there and then. If a child is exposed to adult content online, and this raises questions, it’s truly helpful for parents to be prepared and relaxed when they have these important conversations with their children, and to feel confident answering their questions honestly and openly.”

Peter Turner, Consumer Security Expert at AVG, said: “As a parent myself, I worry about the type of content children may inadvertently come across while using the internet. Technological solutions from AVG and other companies can help parents, but this is only half the solution. Parents still need to talk to their children about the birds, bees, and bots! The good news is we know from our research that parents are having open and positive discussions with their children at a time when we are all spending much more time online.”

Despite these concerns and pressures to have conversations about sex and relationships sooner than planned, parents across the globe are taking due diligence to ensure their children are kept safe and secure, and to educate them about what is — and what isn’t — appropriate for them to see and do online. 

50% of parents have had conversations with their child about what is classed as good and bad behavior online, and 44% work with their children to agree what is safe to do on the internet — for example, which websites to visit and which apps they are allowed to use. 

Beyond having frank and open conversations with their children, parents are also taking additional measures to protect their children: 34% said they ensure that parental controls are set on every device they use; 38% regularly track their child’s search history; and 28% let their children use the internet only in communal areas of the home, such as the kitchen or living room.

Here are some top tips for parents facing “the talk” with their children:

  • Talking with kids about sex and relationships is a lifelong conversation. Doing a little bit at a time instead of having “the talk” takes pressure off you, and it helps your child process your values and information over time. Having regular conversations also sends the message that these topics are important enough to keep bringing up and are a normal part of life.

  • Create a safe space for conversation. It’s important for your child to feel OK about coming to you for reliable, honest information. So, be truthful, relaxed, and confident.

  • Explain things at a level your child can understand, and make sure your child has the facts.

  • Don’t jump to conclusions about why they’re asking what they’re asking. You can say: “Can you tell me what you already know about that?”

  • Keep your answers short and simple and after giving an answer, keep the conversation open. You can say: “What other questions do you have?”

  • Check their understanding and ask, “Does that answer your question?”

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