SecurityBrief New Zealand - Technology news for CISOs & cybersecurity decision-makers
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Concern grows over children's online safety in Aotearoa
Thu, 22nd Feb 2024

New research commissioned by InternetNZ has found that a majority of New Zealanders are seriously worried about young children accessing inappropriate content online. A massive 73% of New Zealanders surveyed expressed extreme or very high concern, keeping it the top concern for the fifth consecutive year. Women seem to be more perturbed, with 80% feeling extremely or very concerned, closely followed by those aged between 30-49, at 77% concern.

InternetNZ's Chief Executive, Vivien Maidaborn, reflects on the results, stating, "This is a perfect reflection of a regulatory system that was designed before the Internet. The challenge is for current regulators to get together and coordinate strongly to use current legislation and to form a unified view of what new legislation might be required." She asserts such worry is deep-seated and ongoing, particularly regarding the safety of children on the internet.

The study—carried out by Verian—unveiled that nearly one in five New Zealanders have personally faced online harassment or harm. The figures rose to 24% for people aged between 18-29, 25% for Maori, and 29% for individuals with a long-term disability or impairment. "These stats confirm what we already know. The Government needs to prioritise changes to protect people. Our laws and processes are not adequate for the online world, and are not helping to keep people safe from harm," Maidaborn emphasises.

Addressing the need for action, Maidaborn insists the work started by the last government needs continuity. A fresh approach is sought, one that minimises the damage caused by online content and abuses. The Internet Insights research study tackled an array of topics, such as internet usage, user concerns, online safety, artificial intelligence, and flexible working practices.

The study revealed that New Zealanders spend a significant portion of their personal time on the internet. More than one-quarter (27%) uses the internet for five hours or more for personal utility. The majority—63%—spend two to four hours a day using the internet outside of work. During their leisure time, almost half (48%) spend most of their time on social media, followed by emailing (40%) and utilising streaming services (39%).

The patterns in social media habits appear to be altering as New Zealanders have curtailed their daily usage of platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. However, regular usage of Facebook Messenger and TikTok remains unchanged. Sentiments about the internet's impact on our cultural beliefs and values are mixed. While 37% of New Zealanders view the internet as having a positive impact, 28% perceive a negative effect, with women more likely to deem the influence as harmful.

The report also pointed out a gradual decline in the belief that the internet's positives outweigh its negatives. The percentage has dipped from 84% in 2022 to 80% currently. For Maori, this belief stands at 75% and for Pasifika peoples, only 63%. Also, concern over Artificial Intelligence is significant, with 42% of those who know about it expressing more concern than excitement.