Parents have little or no idea of what their kids get up to online. That’s the conclusion of a new Symantec report just out.

The Norton Online Living Report (NOLR) studied the online behaviour of children, teenagers and parents in eight countries, including UK, Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan and the US.

The study revealed that both adults and children are increasingly getting "emotionally and socially connected online". This includes everything from seeking information and doing your daily business online, to dating, finding friends and playing online games.

Meeting friends

Half of adults online have met friends over the internet, and so have up to 40 per cent of children. A quarter of children said they enjoy their online friends as much as their offline relationships, and 43 per cent of adults said the same.

The survey also revealed that 72 per cent of UK parents are concerned about their children's activities online, but a quarter has no idea about what their children are doing online.

One in five responding children admit to doing things online that they know their parents would not approve of. Just under a quarter (24 per cent) of online children in the UK reportspending at least 10 times more time online than their parents think they do.

Approached by strangers

Some 20 per cent of children have been approached online by a stranger, whereas parents only thought it was 4 per cent.

“Parents are in the dark when it comes to knowing what their kids are doing online. They don’t have a clue how much time their kids are spending online. They don’t know where therr kids are going when they are online. And, they certainly don’t know who their kids are talking to online,” said Marian Merritt, internet safety advocate at security software firm Symantec.

“This report clearly demonstrates a global digital divide between parents and their cyber-savvy children. We’ve always taught our children not to talk to strangers in the offline world, and now we must teach our children how to safely exist in an online world filled with strangers,” Merritt said.

The Symantec survey polled 4,687 adults aged 18 years and older, and 2,717 children aged 8 to 17 years who spend one or more hours online each month.