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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September, 2003, 17:35 GMT 18:35 UK
Parents 'oblivious' to children's surfing
Young girl using the net, BBC
Do you know what your kids do online?
A lack of knowledge about the internet means too many parents in the UK have no clue what their children are doing online.

Many worry about what their children have seen, but one in four are unsure where to get safety advice, says a survey.

As a result, cable company Telewest has worked with the charity Childnet to give their customers tutorials and leaflets aimed at children and parents separately.

The cableco hope they will help parents learn about the net without scaring them, while children will learn how to help their parents be "cool" about it all.

Wake up

The cableco said they were alarmed that over half of parents did not know what their children were up to online.

But they said parents and children need to be educated about the net separately.

"There should be a bit more understanding from the parents", a spokesperson told BBC News Online.

"We are trying not to patronise net savvy kids while trying to make it straightforward for techno-phobic parents."

Parents are so nervous about the net, half of the 500 asked said they feel they have to sit with their children while surfing, says the survey by NOP for Telewest.

Teenage boy using the net, BBC
Many parents are scared to admit ignorance

They need to "wake up and take notice" of what their kids are doing online, said the spokesperson.

"Ours and Childnet's view is that parents feel they don't understand the net and that their children know more than they do," he explained.

"Many think it's safe because the children seem to know so much about it."

They fear admitting they are ignorant about the net because they do not want to appear "uncool" to their children, the survey revealed.

As a result, when stories about internet grooming do hit the headlines, they panic and blow the dangers out of all proportion.

"But we believe the net is a reflection of real life and just as in cities, there are dangers," the spokesperson said.

Parents are advised by Childnet to take a calmer approach when explaining what children might have to deal with online.


Many service providers already provide safety tools like pop-up blockers and website blockers bundled with their broadband packages.

But more proactive education is needed, say Telewest.

"More than ever, service providers have to take on accountability for providing the tools but also the educational side, and that is the side which needs to become more prevalent."

Childnet's Kidsmart leaflets will be included in welcome packs for new subscribers to Telewest's broadband service, and are online.

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