A new report on parental concerns about the safety of their children’s lives online reveals a wide range of opinion, although some common themes do emerge.
According to the researchers, of those parents with kids online, nearly two-thirds are concerned (32 percent very concerned) about online sexual predators. Similarly, about two-thirds of parents are concerned about loss of privacy (22 percent very concerned) and about one-half (21 percent are very concerned) about their children viewing pornographic material.
In contrast, smaller proportions of parents are concerned about their online kids playing games (35 percent), being the victims of cyber bullying (31 percent), or gambling (17 percent).
“Parents are quite aware of some online safety risks but seem less aware about others,” says Matthew Davis, M.D., MAPP, director of the poll.
“We know from other studies that about one in seven children between the ages of 10 and 17 have received sexual solicitation over the Internet and about one in three children have been exposed to sexually explicit material.
“So it’s not a surprise that most parents whose kids are online unsupervised are concerned about issues related to sexual predators and pornography. On the other hand, cyber bullying is a very worrisome problem for kids, yet the majority of parents say they are not concerned about it.”
Parents of girls who go online have different concerns than parents of boys who go online. For girls, parents’ leading Internet concern is sexual predators. For boys, parents’ leading Internet concern is viewing pornographic material.
Although lesser concerns, online bullying is much more likely to be a concern for parents of girls (38 percent) than for parents of boys (24 percent), and playing online games is more a concern for parents of boys (42 percent) than for parents of girls (28 percent).
When comparing parents concerns by race/ethnicity, the report shows black parents are generally more concerned about the safety of their children online than Hispanic or white parents.
“Black parents are more concerned than other parents about all of the risks we measured,” says Davis, who is also associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine in the U-Michigan Medical School and associate professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
“For online gambling, black parents have about twice the level of concern as other parents.”
The poll also asked parents what actions they do take, if any, to safeguard their children online:
- 65 percent of parents report disabling pop-ups
- 62 percent monitor social networking sites
- 61 percent check Web history
- 49 percent block Web sites they don’t want their children to use
- 32 percent use child-safe software
Sixty-eight percent of parents report taking 1 to 4 of the above actions, while 19 percent take all 5 of the actions listed. However, 13 percent of parents whose children access the Internet report not taking any of these actions to protect or monitor that use.
“As the Internet has grown rapidly, so too has children’s access to everything the Internet has to offer – good and bad,” Davis says.
“Federal laws have been enacted to limit kids’ access to pornographic material and strengthen surveillance and stiffen penalties for online predators. But it is important for parents to remain vigilant about their children’s activities online.”
Source: University of Michigan