Risk Communication Framework for Parental Control in the Digital World
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The Internet is growing rapidly and is becoming an essential part of children’s lives. Internet use has many benefits for learning, participation, creativity, entertainment and communication. Along with such benefits, however, Internet use might expose children to a wide range of online risks. Some of those risks, such as bullying, exposure to pornography, and sexual exploitation, are known in the offline world but there are also new ones, such as the invasion of personal data and privacy, geolocation tracking, sexual messaging and harassment. Unfortunately, the existing mechanisms for protecting children online are ineffective. The parental controls currently available focus on monitoring and restrictive functions to reduce potential online risks, which might not satisfy the expectations of young people who want unrestricted freedom to use the Internet. Parental controls also demonstrate shortcomings in increasing parents’ awareness of the risks that their children may encounter. Parents not only need to be aware of their children’s online activities, but also to understand and mitigate the potential risks associated with their children’s online activities. Young people might engage in online behaviours that expose them to risk, although not all risk leads to harm. Therefore, parental controls should improve parents’ awareness of the potential security risks related to their children’s online activities, so that they can support their children’s use of the Internet, enhance their opportunities and help them develop the coping skills to deal with potential risk. The present research suggests applying a risk communication mechanism to parental controls to raise the security awareness for parents and children in order to help them make safe decisions and reduce online risks. Firstly, this research proposes a risk assessment model that assess the risk levels of children’s online activities in order to warn parents and children about them in an individualised, timely, and continuous way. The proposed system also provides appropriate protection responses to avoid those risks. Secondly, a prototype system has been designed and developed to simulate the proposed system and provide a clear image of its functionalities and how it works. After implementing the prototype system, it was important to have parents evaluate its usability and usefulness. The participants were able to use the system and were satisfied in terms of its overall appearance and the functions provided. They agreed and prefer to use the system in real life. It can also be stated that the overall feedback from the participants regarding the proposed system was very encouraging and positive.