Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sue Scheff: Survey Shows Parents Still Less Concerned About Cyberbullying Than Other Online Threats

ReputationDefender/MyChild is an excellent resource to help keep your kids safe online. Recently they posted on their Blog about a new survey that suggests parents not as concerned about cyberbullying as they are with other online threats. Read more and learn how you can be proactive in keeping your kids safe in cyberspace.

Although cyberbullying poses a far more realistic threat to children and teens online than sexual predators, a recent study from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s

Health shows that parents continue to downplay concern over this fast growing problem.
According to Dr. Matthew Davis, who organized the study,

“Parents are quite aware of some online safety risks but seem less aware about others. We know from other studies that about one in seven children between the ages of 10 and 17 have received sexual solicitation over the Internet, and about one in three children have been exposed to sexually explicit material. So it’s not a surprise that most parents whose kids are online unsupervised are concerned about issues related to sexual predators and pornography. On the other hand, cyberbullying is a very worrisome problem for kids, yet the majority of parents say they are not concerned about it.”

Dr. Davis’ research also found that “81 percent of parents surveyed said their children aged 9 to 17 use the Internet without being supervised by an adult.”

It is distressing to see that there is still a lack of awareness regarding the dangers of cyberbullying, particularly when four out of five children are surfing the web without any supervision. Unfortunately, it is also somewhat expected.

Rarely are we able to identity the severity of a problem as it’s occurring. For instance, five or six years ago when MySpace and other social networking websites were beginning to gain traction, there were a rash of news stories about sexual predators trolling the internet looking for victims. From 2004 to 2008, the Dateline NBC show To Catch a Predator put a face to these stories, trapping would-be sex offenders in a hidden camera reality TV show.

Despite the continuing danger that sexual predators play, however, our exposure and awareness of the problem has helped us mitigate the threat somewhat. It is 2009. Teens are no longer inexperienced web surfers. They text, they tweet, they have multiple social networking accounts. As with all things on the web, the problems kids and teens face now have evolved.
Because kids and teens are so tuned in online, there is little disconnect from their time at school to their time at home. In some ways, this is good. Studies have shown that social networking websites help maintain stronger peripheral relationships over long periods of time, allowing for a more robust and useful social circle.

In other ways, however, being plugged in all the time is a bad thing. If a child is facing taunting or bullying at school, there is no respite from the abuse at home. Often, in the digital age, schoolyard abuse carries over to the web in ways that are far more destructive and emotionally scarring. The fact that parents are not supervising their kids online allows for the bullying to go virtually uninterrupted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As demonstrated in the case of Megan Meier, the results of prolonged cyberbullying can be tragic.

In order to protect your kids online effectively, you must understand all of the threats, not just the ones that make the headlines. In the next two or three years, cyberbullying will become one of the most talked about issues on the web. Don’t wait until then to talk about it with your kids. For more information on how to identify and prevent cyberbullying, check out this guide from ReputationDefender. Also, if you don’t already, follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more information.

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