Food for Thought Friday: Children’s Dangerous Internet Use

On April 4, the Center for Cyber and Safety Education released the results of a study it conducted with 342 parents and students in 4-8th grades. The research sought to identify the children’s use of the Internet and their level of online safety. The good news is that almost all of the children acknowledged that parents and schools are teaching them about Internet safety.   However, the children were still engaging in dangerous online behaviors.

Here are some of the findings:

 

  1. Parents were unaware of how late children were online (often at midnight or later on a school night and after 1 AM on weekends).
  2. Most parents did not frequently monitor their children’s activity on social media sites, including Facebook and Instagram.
  3. Ten percent of the students have come to school late because they were tired from late night Internet use or some were even absent from school (5%) because of it.
  4. On average, children were online over 4 hours a day on weekends and over 2 hours a day on school days beyond doing homework or other schoolwork.
  5. Almost all of the children said that they used the Internet without parents watching them.
  6. About three in ten students acknowledged that they use the Internet in ways their parents would not approve.  This was particularly true (four in ten) for older students.  These activities primarily included
    • lying about their age to get onto an adult website (31%)
    • listening to or downloading music with adult content (31%)
    • watching programs or movies online meant for adults (21%)
    • searching the Internet for topics meant for adults (20%)
    • using a webcam or Facetime to chat with a stranger (15%).
  7.  Four out of ten children say they have connected with strangers online.  Over half doing so tell the stranger they are older than they are or even are an adult.  The online interaction with a stranger sometimes progressed to texting or voice conversation by phone.
  8. Some children reported giving out sensitive information like their phone number or home address.  Other dangerous online activities included
    • meeting in person with a stranger they connected with online (4%)
    • posting photos of themselves online or in a text message that parents would find inappropriate (8%)
    • purchasing something online with a credit card without parental permission (6%).

Interestingly, there are few differences by gender in how children use the Internet.

Although the sample size of this study is not large enough to generalize, the findings from this research raise questions that should provoke some good conversations.

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