Cyber Divide Widens: Kids Outsmarting Their Parents

The gap is widening between what kids do online and what their parents think they do. A new study shows that children are online twice as much as their parents think they are and nearly one-quarter are getting away with forbidden online activities, according to security company Symantec, which commissioned Harris Interactive to do the poll.Parents also may be disconcerted to learn that the survey showed that 23% of children have had an encounter with a stranger on the Internet and 7% reported having met someone in the real world from the Internet. see:
Symantec Survey Finds Kids Outsmart Parents When it Comes to the Internet [news release]Nearly a Quarter of Kids Surveyed Report They Do Things Online Their Parents Would Not CondoneSymantec announced results from a Symantec poll conducted by Harris Interactive that revealed a significant digital divide between parents and their cyber-savvy children. According to the June 2007 poll, parents of children who access the Internet think their child is online six hours a week, on average, but children admit to spending an average of 11.4 hours online a week, and nearly a quarter (23 percent) of children report doing things online that their parents would not condone.These startling statistics were used as the basis for Symantec’s first-ever Norton Connected and Protected Town Hall, which was held in partnership with Miss America 2007 Lauren Nelson, whose personal platform is protecting children online, and Giant Campus’ Cybercamps, the nationally-recognized leader in technology summer camps for youth. During the August 2 Town Hall in New York City, more than 75 youth and parents participated in interactive discussions on Internet safety lead by Symantec’s Internet Safety Advocate Marian Merritt. The Town Hall explored the role the Internet and other technologies play in children’s personal, school and family lives, as well as encouraged kids and parents to keep an open dialogue about cyber safety, cyber security and cyber ethics.While parents have much to learn about what their kids are doing online, Internet safety is a top concern for them. According to the June 2007 Symantec poll, nearly nine in ten parents (88 percent) express concern about keeping their child safe when he/she is online and about three in four (76 percent) are specifically concerned about their child being approached with inappropriate content or solicitations online. As part of the same poll, youth reported the following:

  • 21% of children have reported having an experience with inappropriate material via the Internet that made them feel uncomfortable
  • 19% of children have had an experience with cyberbullying or cyber pranks (such as receiving messages, images or videos intended as a joke or prank)
  • 23% of children have had an encounter with a stranger on the Internet, including seven percent of children who reported having met someone in the real world from the Internet
  • 20% of children wish their parents were more interested in using the Internet

Parents Unaware of Their Kids’ Activities on Social Networking SitesWhile nearly half of the Town Hall participants reported having a social networking site, Symantec learned that many had not thought about the consequences of posting personal information on sites such as MySpace, Facebook or Friendster. During a review of a faux social network site, youth discussed what content was appropriate to share privately and publicly, including the types of information to keep private.”I wasn’t aware kids were posting their entire profiles online,” said Bill, father of two young boys who attended the Norton Connected and Protected Town Hall. “Including their name, location, photos and contact information.””We know children, and particularly teens, are engaging in online activities their parents would be shocked to learn about,” said Marian Merritt, Internet Safety Advocate for Symantec. “Through Symantec’s Norton Connected and Protect Family Safety Initiative, we hope to educate parents about the reality of what their kids are doing online, foster communication between kids and parents, and give families the knowledge and tools they need to stay safe online.””Kids today have never known a world without the Internet and interacting with their peers via social networks is common practice,” said Pete Findley, Chief Executive Office at Giant Campus, creator of Cybercamps. “Unfortunately, without parents who are knowledgeable about the Internet and actively involved with what their children are doing online, kids could learn of the dangers of the Web through a damaging experience.”Real-life Run-in with Potential Cyber-predatorsMiss America 2007 Lauren Nelson co-hosted Town Hall discussions on cyber-predators. Nelson personally knows the threats the Internet can pose. When Nelson was 13, she and her friends gave their name, age and location to someone online who was later discovered to be a sexual predator. Today, Nelson works with Symantec and the company’s Norton Connected and Protected Family Safety Initiative to educate children about the dangers of the Internet as part of her year of service with the Miss America Organization.”Protecting children from the dangers of the Internet is a personal issue for me,” said Miss America 2007 Lauren Nelson. “After hearing the stories of the teens who participated in our Town Hall, I am even more committed to bringing national attention to this issue and getting people talking about ways to educate and protect our children online.”Playground Bullying Goes High-TechCyberbullying was ranked among the top concerns of parents participating in the Town Hall, and many were unaware of the recent trend of playground bullying going high tech.”Parents frequently tell us they don’t know how to talk to their children about Internet safety, or that they feel intimated by technology,” said Marian Merritt, Internet Safety Advocate for Symantec. “The reality is that in many cases, kids actually know more about technology than their parents – the kids are the IT director of the household. Through discussions like this Town Hall, Symantec is working to level the playing field in Internet safety by educating both parents and children.” Safety and Your Tween (19/2/07)
It’s time to talk to your child about Internet safety. According to a 2006 study by the Zandi Group, three in 10 “tweens” (children ages 8-12) have access to the Internet at home. That represents a very large target for entities ranging from legitimate publishers and marketers to scammers and predators. And a potential risk to your child.

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