Fact sheet

Parental awareness of children’s experiences of online risks and harm

Evidence from Ngā taiohi matihiko o Aotearoa – New Zealand Kids Online
Online abuse Online harassment Cyber safety Children Internet New Zealand

Research suggests that parents tend to largely underestimate their child’s engagement in risky and/or hurtful behaviours as well as their experiences of harm online. While helpful, the available international evidence is not only limited but also does not reflect the New Zealand context. In addition, understanding parental knowledge of the online experiences of children is important as parents play a critical role in helping their child to prevent or deal with bothering experiences and risky behaviours as well as providing children with emotional support when things go wrong online.

To help close the gap of New Zealand-based evidence on the topic, this factsheet presents findings from a quantitative study conducted by Netsafe with New Zealand parents and their children. The objectives of the study are to measure parental knowledge of children’s experiences of risks and harm online, and to compare parents’ level of awareness with their child’s self-reported experiences.

Key findings:

  1. There is a mismatch between parents’, caregivers’ and whānau awareness and their children’s reports of bothering or upsetting experiences online. This seems consistent with past research; however, the gap is smaller in New Zealand compared to the evidence collected overseas.
  2. At the same time, parental awareness about the emotional impact this had was, to a large extent, consistent with children’s reported experiences.
  3. Parents, caregivers and whānau of adolescents aged 13-17 seem to significantly underestimate their children’s exposure to potentially harmful online content such as violent images, hate speech, self harm, and experiences of taking drugs, among others


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