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80 percent of Australians believe online safety should be taught as part of the curriculum. Despite this, a new McAfee study shows majority of Australians aren’t taking extra security measures at home.

At the time of being surveyed, 39 percent of Australians had at least one household member start to participate in online/virtual distance learning since the start of 2020—a number that has likely since increased with schools shutting down in recent months in many parts of the country. 48 percent of Australian didn’t take any proactive security measures to protect their family/home when distance learning was introduced to their lives, with 34 percent saying they saw no increased risk to their children’s online safety.

Sydney, Australia, August 24, 2021

As schools around the Australia return to virtual/online learning, a new study from McAfee Corp. It shows that many parents have not taken proactive security measures to protect their family/home when distance learning was introduced to their lives, despite being concerned that their children could be exposed to scams or illegal content. 

Even after almost two in five Australians had a household member start online learning as a result of the pandemic at the start of 2020—56 percent of which were under the age of 18—over a third of parents saw no increased risk to their children’s online safety. As such, almost half (48 percent) of Australian didn’t take any proactive security measures to protect their family/home when distance learning was introduced to their lives. 

There is, however, a concerning discrepancy between Australian’s concerns and behaviours, with respondents citing they are being extremely worried about exposure to scams (43%), sharing personal information (43 percent), illegal content (35 percent), cyber-bullying (40 percent) and misinformation (31 percent). 

One explanation could be that 80 percent of Australians believe that children should be taught about digital wellness and online safety in the classroom and only 8% believing it to be their own responsibility. 

“The snap return of online learning signalled the start of another particularly stressful time for Australian parents. We’re now tasked with not only keeping the household running and working from home ourselves, but also with making sure our kids are logged in ready for their Zoom class and able to complete their online schoolwork,” said Alex Merton-McCann, Cyber Safety Ambassador and Cybermum ANZ at McAfee. “While there are understandably lots of distractions at the moment, something as important as our children’s cyber safety shouldn’t slip off the list! At McAfee, we know the importance of digital wellness and want to help parents and teachers educate themselves and their children.” 

Get Prepped for Back to School 

Even in those instances where schools are teaching digital wellness as part of the curriculum, parents need to continue to educate themselves and their families. To help, McAfee has put together these top tips for parents to get their children prepped for going back to school safely. 

Get your devices ready: much like getting children ready to going back to school by preparing backpacks ahead of time, it’s good to make sure that any device that children will be using for school or homework is up to date on its latest settings including security software. 

Refresh passwords: Many students will still be accessing the same online learning tools from the classroom. With passwords regularly being shared online by cyber criminals, it’s good to update passwords regularly. Using a password manager will help create, organise and encrypt strong passwords to make it simpler to be safe. 

Access from home securely: Use a VPN when children are accessing online learning services from home to protect the privacy of the internet connection with bank-level encryption to stop hackers stealing personal information like passwords or data.  

Teach personal responsibility: With misinformation a major concern for many parents, it’s important for parents to educate their children about fake news and how to spot it. Ask children to question the content they read or watch online to determine if it is credible before making up their minds. 

Discuss digital wellness round the dinner table: While it can sound like a boring topic, it’s important for families to regularly discuss online safety at home. Parents should talk to their children about how to spot a phishing scam, what to do if there’s been a data breach and how to have good digital wellness.