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Minority Parents Most Anxious About Child’s Online Safety

Minority Parents Most Anxious About Child's Online Safety  While the online environment can be an exceptional learning environment, it can be a dangerous space for children to engage, explore and play.

In most situations, parents are aware of the potential harm and danger of the online environment.

A new study discovers that parents say a key concern is the fear that their children will meet strangers online, followed closely by exposure to pornography, violent content and bullying.

But a parent’s level of concern for these and other online safety issues varies depending on their racial and ethnic background, researchers learned.

The study has been published in the journal Policy & Internet. Highlights from the study include:

  • White parents are the least concerned about all online safety issues;
  • Parents of Asian and Hispanic descent are significantly more likely to be concerned about all online safety-related issues;
  • Black parents are significantly more concerned than white parents about children meeting harmful strangers or being exposed to pornography, but not about other issues.

“Policies that aim to protect children online talk about parents’ concerns, assuming parents are this one homogenous group,” said Eszter Hargittai, Ph.D., co-author of the study.

“When you take a close look at demographic backgrounds of parents, concerns are not uniform across population groups.”

The other co-author of the study is Danah Boyd, Ph.D., a principal researcher at Microsoft Research and a research assistant professor at New York University.

The results of the study come from a U.S. nationally representative online survey of parents and guardians with children ages 10 to 14 in their households.

More than 1,000 parents took part in the survey in the summer of 2011. Data collected included gender, race/ethnicity, age, education, household income, region/metro area, political ideology, religiosity, and the age and gender of the children.

Parents were presented with five specific scenarios their child could encounter online. Answer options ranged from “not at all concerned” to “extremely concerned” on a five-point scale.

Here’s how parents ranked their level of concern with these scenarios:

  1. Child meeting a stranger who means to do harm (4.3/5)
  2. Child being exposed to pornographic content (4.2/5)
  3. Child being exposed to violent content (3.7/5)
  4. Child being a victim of online bullying (3.5/5)
  5. Child bullying another child online (2.4/5)

Other interesting results from the study:

Metropolitan status: Urban parents tend to be more concerned than suburban or rural parents.

Education: College-educated parents exhibit lower levels of fear regarding stranger danger than parents with less education.

Income: Having a higher income is related to lower fears when it comes to exposure to pornography, being bullied or being a bully.

Political ideology: Parents of liberal persuasion are less concerned than moderates or conservatives about pornography, but more concerned about their child becoming a bully.

Gender/age of child: Parents of daughters and of younger children are more concerned than parents of sons when it comes to meeting a stranger and exposure to violent content.

Parents’ gender/religion: A parent’s gender or religious beliefs have little effect on levels of concern.

Socioeconomic status factors seemed to have some influence on parents’ levels of concern, but they seemed less important when also taking into account race and ethnicity, the researchers said.

“Our study highlights how parental concern differs by demographic factors, notably race and ethnicity,” Boyd said.

“This raises significant questions about policies intended to empower parents. Which parents — and, in turn, which youth — are being empowered by the interventions being developed?”

Source: Northwestern University


Mother supervising daughter on computer photo by shutterstock.

Minority Parents Most Anxious About Child’s Online Safety

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Minority Parents Most Anxious About Child’s Online Safety. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 22 Nov 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.