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02-10 Children and internet safety

Posted in Teens

Children and internet safety

With almost six out of 10 children aged 8 to 12 in the U.S. having been provided a cell phone by their parents, internet safety is more of a concern than ever. Despite many educational tools that technology offers young children, the internet carries an inherent risk posed by the predators that lurk in chat rooms and social media sites. Relationships formed on the web between young kids and predators account for a large portion of the 800,000 children that go missing every year, with online bullying undoubtedly contributing to kids being nine times more likely to commit suicide, according to some studies.

However, are parents’ levels of concern appropriate for the amount of danger that the internet poses to children? A recent study sought to measure such levels in regards to their ethnic background in order to determine if any demographic is more at risk than another as well as methods of better personalizing policies designed to protect children online. Published in the journal Policy & Internet, the researchers took data from an online survey of over 1,000 parents with children aged 10 to 14, including information about gender, race, age, income, education, location, religious preference, political identification as well as the age and gender of the children.

The researchers presented parents with five specific scenarios that their child could potentially encounter online, with answers ranging from “not concerned” to “extremely concerned” on a scale from one to five. The situations, ranked from the highest level of concern to the lowest, include the following:

  • Concerns of child meeting a stranger who intends to harm them (average of 4.3/5)
  • Child being exposed to pornography (4.2/5)
  • Child subjected to violent content (3.7/5)
  • Child being a victim of online bullying (3.5/5)
  • Child bullying other children online (2.4/5)

The results revealed Caucasian parents to be the least concerned about the safety of their kids while using the internet, with African American parents being significantly more concerned about their kids meeting strangers and being exposed to pornography (but none of the other scenarios). Asian and Hispanic parents, however, were the most cautious about their children, citing a significant level of concern for all five possible scenarios.

Other demographics in the study

In addition to the ethnicity of the parents, socioeconomic factors were taken into account as well. The study found that parents living in urban areas were more likely to be concerned than suburban and rural parents, with higher income parents worrying less when it comes to their kids being exposed to pornography or bullying. Similarly, college-educated parents exhibited lower levels of fear of their children encountering strangers than parents with less education.

Perhaps not surprisingly, parents who identified as liberals were less concerned than conservatives about their kids inadvertently viewing pornography, although more concerned about them growing up to become bullies themselves. Also not surprising were parents of younger children being more concerned about them as far as strangers and violent content than those with older kids. However, the parents’ religion and gender had almost no bearing on their levels of concern, peculiar findings considering that one would assume that religious people would be more likely to either trust that nothing bad will happen to their kids or worry excessively.

Overall, the researchers found that parents’ race had much more of an impact on their concern for their child’s internet use than socioeconomic factors. Although those factors seemed to have some influence on parents’ levels of concern, they seemed less important when also taking ethnicity into account. With these findings, internet policies can become better equipped to serve the disparate needs of parents from different ethnic backgrounds.

Sovereign Health’s Adolescent Program is familiar with the dangers that the internet poses, limiting our teens’ cell phone use to ensure they stay focused on their treatment and recovery. If you have any questions, feel free to browse the reviews section of our site or contact us today.

Written by Chase Beckwith, Sovereign Health Group writer.

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