Indian children have the highest online risk exposure and are among the youngest to reach mobile maturity, reveals a new study by McAfee Corp, a global leader in online protection. The report titled ‘Life behind the screens of parents, tweens, and teens’ explains how those most vulnerable may be left under-protected.
In India, smartphone use at the age of 10 to 14 is at 83 per cent, which is significantly 7 per cent above the international average of 76 per cent. This leads to high exposure to online risks as there is a substantial security gap between parents and children. Additionally, while the concern is relatively low among parents, 22 per cent of Indian children experienced cyberbullying at some time which is notably 5 per cent higher than the global average of 17 per cent.
“Ninety per cent of parents globally recognize their role as protectors online, just as they recognize their responsibility to protect their children in the broader world. Children in India are among the youngest to reach mobile maturity and report among the highest exposure to online risks. 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 connected families,” said Sachin Puri, Vice President of Marketing, McAfee. “With this data, we aim to bring light to actions which parents need to take to counteract online risks such as cyberbullying, online identity theft and leaks of financial information.”
Parents as safe-keepers
Globally, 73 per cent of children look to parents more than any other resource for help with online safety. However, parents struggle to deliver leading to security gaps. While 56 per cent of parents globally said that they protect their smartphone with a password or passcode, only 42 per cent said they do the same for their child’s smartphone —a further 14 per cent drop.
The level of concern about cyberbullying and abuse on social media among Indian parents was 47 per cent, a full 10 per cent lower than the global average of 57 per cent.
Indian families reported their experiences with other online threats, indicating issues with online privacy and security—and at a much greater rate than other families worldwide. Parents reported the attempted theft of online accounts at 33 per cent which is 5 per cent higher than parents worldwide at 28 per cent. There was a significant 11 per cent higher mark for children who reported thefts at 26 per cent in India compared to the global average of 15 per cent.
Indian parents and children reported leaks of financial information at a higher rate than families worldwide, with parents 9 per cent higher than the 21 per cent average and children 13 per cent higher than the 10 per cent average.
Secret lives of teens and tweens online
Children and teens want privacy and protection as they build their connected lives. In India, tweens and teens put their smartphones and gaming consoles as preferred devices at the top of their list. From clearing browser history to omitting details about what they are doing online, more than half of children (59 per cent) act to hide their online activity across the globe.
In India, the number of children reporting private conversations without knowing a person’s real identity was a noteworthy 11 per cent higher than for other children around the world.
22 per cent of children in India experienced cyberbullying at some time which is strikingly 5 per cent higher than the global average of 17 per cent.
Gendered Protection Bias
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.
Globally, 23 per cent of parents say they will check the browsing and email history on the PCs of their daughters aged 10 to 14, and for boys, it’s only 16 per cent. The disparity appears again, with 22 per cent of parents restricting access to certain sites for girls and only 16 per cent for boys.
Consistent with the global trend in India, 44 per cent of girls have parental controls software installed on computers compared to 40 per cent of boys, a modest 4 per cent difference.
In India, 55 per cent of parents of girls aged 10-14 are more likely to check their calls and texts as compared to parents of boys at 52 per cent.
“We want parents to know there are tools and resources available to foster safe and healthy online activity for their families while also being 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. “For total online protection of families, this study urges parents to safeguard their kids from various vulnerabilities by using effective tools which give the ability to monitor device activity, limit screen time, block apps and filter websites to help add layer of protection.”