Internet Safety: What Parents Should Know

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Picture of a boy looking at a laptop while covering his mouth and laughing.The reality of the dangers children, teenagers and even adults can experience when on the Internet can be alarming. But by knowing the dangers, parents can protect their children. This Internet Safety information should not dampen your enthusiasm for the Internet or your child’s enthusiasm, but help you and your family learn to use it wisely. After all the Internet is becoming an important part of our lives.

As a first step, talk to your children about the Internet and their use of it. Let them know dangerous people pose as friendly teenagers and befriend young people to ultimately abuse and victimize them. You’re find more tips at Internet Safety—What Parents Can Do, located at right.

What Research Tells Us

The Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire conducted a Youth Internet Safety Survey to better understand the experiences of young people, ages 10-17, when using the Internet. The Survey collected information about incidents of possible online victimization through telephone interviews with a national sample of 1,501 young people who use the Internet regularly, at least once a month for the past six months.

Here are the Survey’s Statistical Highlights:
  • One in four had an unwanted exposure to pictures of naked people in the last year.
  • Approximately one in five received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet in the last year.
  • One in seventeen was threatened or harassed.
  • One in thirty-three received an aggressive sexual solicitation—a solicitor who asked to meet them somewhere; called them on the telephone; sent them regular mail, money, or gifts.
  • Approximately one quarter of young people who reported these incidents were distressed by them. • Less than 10% of sexual solicitations and only 3% of unwanted exposure episodes were reported to authorities such as a law-enforcement agency, an Internet service provider or a hotline.
  • About one quarter of the youth who encountered a sexual solicitation or approach told a parent. Almost 40% of those reporting an unwanted exposure to sexual material told a parent.
  • Only 17% of youth and approximately 10% of parents could name a specific authority (such as the FBI, CyberTipline, or Internet service provider) to which they could make a report, although more said they had “heard of” such places.
  • In households with home Internet access, one third of parents said they had filtering or blocking software on their computer at the time they were interviewed.

This information was compiled by Sunindia Bhalla, One Tough Job Manager, and reviewed by the Program Staff of the Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund.

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