New research shows alarming number of Kiwi teenagers view violent content online

Nearly half of Kiwi teenagers have been exposed to violent content online, including suicide material. 

The shocking statistics have come from new research released by Netsafe on Tuesday, coinciding with Safer Internet Day.

Netsafe interviewed more than 2000 children between the ages of nine and 17 and found 15 percent had looked up "ways to be very thin".

Another 17 percent had searched ways to commit suicide and more than a third had seen violent or gory images including things like beheadings.

Martin Cocker, the Netsafe chief executive officer, says the results demonstrate why families need to engage in regular, open, non-judgemental discussions about the internet. 

"Nearly half of teenagers in New Zealand have come across content that's considered to be harmful," said Cocker. 

Most of the young people exposed to upsetting content had turned to a parent or friend, but 11 percent talked to nobody.

Cocker says the reality of life online needs to be understood by parents. 

"The advice for parents is to recognise this is the experience of young people and to talk to their children about it in advance, and the advice for young people is to talk to somebody about it.”

Cocker says open discussions can help older children feel comfortable to talk about distressing things they may have seen. 

 "Younger children can be monitored and protected by parental software, but older children will choose who they disclose incidents to, and who they will seek help from."

Youthline isn't surprised by the numbers, saying cyberbullying is on the rise.

"We've doubled in terms of the number of young people at risk contacting us on our helpline since January 2018," said Shae Ronald, Youthline chief executive officer.