Teen and Tween Online Safety – What Are Parents Worried About?

We understand that every family is different, and every parent has different fears and concerns. A study conducted in 2011 by Microsoft and Northwestern University sheds some light on how parents actually think about their kids’ online safety, and what exactly they are worried about. The results are probably more relevant than ever now, as teen internet and social media adoption has risen steadily and we haven’t seen a similar study conducted since.

The study surveyed 1,007 parents of kids between 10 and 14, and results were sorted by age of the parent, demographics and education level. Parents employed in the computer software industry were excluded, presumably because they are far more tech savvy than the average parent.

Let’s take a look at some of the statistics and see whether they tell an interesting story.

In order, as follows are the things that concern parents when it comes to pre teen and teen internet behavior:

  1. Meeting a stranger
  2. Viewing pornography
  3. Viewing violent content
  4. Being a victim of cyberbullying
  5. Perpetrating cyberbullying

Given the prevalence of cyberbullying, it’s is interesting that relatively few parents (17% to be exact) are concerned that their kids are being cyberbullies.

In all the categories listed above, parents with higher income levels and more advanced education showed lower levels of concern than the rest of the sample group. Not surprisingly, parents were generally more concerned about daughters than sons.

When parents were asked whether they knew that their child had encountered any of the above risks, the answers were as follows:

  • Meeting a stranger – 2%
  • Viewing pornography – 17%
  • Viewing violent content – 14%
  • Being a victim of cyberbullying – 6%
  • Perpetrating cyberbully – 1%

If the study were to be done today, we’re not sure whether the results would be markedly different, but we are fairly confident that most of the above answers understate what is actually going on, especially with respect to cyberbullying.

Looking alone at the mismatch between known cases of cyberbullying victims vs. parents who know their child was a bully, it appears that many bullies go undiscovered.

What is your experience? Please let us know in the comments below.


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