From The Author's Desk: Fast Facts about Online Risks to Kids

From The Author's Desk: Fast Facts about Online Risks to Kids

(Welcome to the first in a new series from our very own book author, Lilla Dale McManis, MEd., PhD.)

The number of kids online is….just about all of them! From more than 50% of preschoolers to 95% of teens almost any kiddo could be the quintessential poster child of “plugged in”. With 99% of parents reporting their child has access to a computer and 88% to a cellphone it’s easy to see how. 

With this much exposure the potential risks to kids from being online are substantial. This is why we have written How To Protect Your Kids Online: The Ultimate ‘How To’ Parent’s Guide. Extensively researched, the book brings you accurate information and proven strategies to keep your kids safe when using the internet. 

In this article we share an overview from the book of several key issues and a few of the many eye-opening statistics about the risks to kids when they’re online. 

Fast Facts about Online Predators

The internet has introduced an entirely new vehicle for predators to reach kids. An online predator is any person who uses the internet specifically to target minors for nonconsensual sexual or abusive purposes. 

  • Reading the definition, it’s no wonder that meeting strangers online is the number 1 worry of parents, 98% of parents have this concern. 
  • 1 in 5 teens have received an unwanted sexual solicitation via the internet, with the majority being girls at 70%. 
  • Social media is the place the predator used to learn about their victim in 80% of sex crimes. 

Fast Facts about Cyberbully

Cyberbullying is a serious problem for kids and it’s rampant. Cyberbullying goes beyond just a snarky comment or two. It is purposeful and repeated harm via computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices. The internet allows bullies to access their targets on multiple platforms 24/7.

  • 80% of parents are concerned their child will be cyberbullied. 
  • 1 in 4 teens have experienced cyberbullying and 90% have witnessed it. Further, most kids reveal they don’t know how to handle it. 
  • Kids who bully offline (in person) are the ones most likely to do it online. Similarly kids bullied offline tend to be cyberbullying victims.

Fast Facts about Inappropriate Content

Inappropriate content is all over the internet and comes through a wide variety of platforms. While there are personal definitions of what is inappropriate, content that is pornographic, exceptionally violent or hate-centered, or involves self-harm is considered inappropriate for minors. 

  • Almost 95% of parents are concerned about pornography and 85% about violent content. 
  • It might appear on the surface that email is safe yet 80% of elementary through high school kids who use email have gotten inappropriate spam daily. Half of that is to pornographic websites. 
  • In addition to email and websites devoted to specific kinds of inappropriate content, about 30% of kids see it on YouTube.

Fast Facts about Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity falls into two major categories. These are digital threats which have to do with devices and the data that resides on them, and social threats which are about privacy and security breaches. 

  • 60% of parents are concerned about their children’s privacy when they are online. 
  • While we think about counterfeit websites as being the biggest threat, in truth legitimate but unsecure websites are 21 times more likely to pass on content that is malicious. 
  • Kids are 50 times more likely to be identity theft victims than adults because they have a cleaner online history. 

The Disconnect

As you can see, kids have a great deal on their plate when it comes to using the internet and much of it is very serious. Unfortunately, even though parents report they’re worried about these threats happening, they aren’t aware they’ve already happened for many kids. A case in point is that 66% of kids have experienced a negative online experience with content yet only about 20% of their parents were aware of it.

What Can You Do?

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Educate Yourself. It’s essential you have a solid knowledge-base about what’s going on with kids and the internet and best practices for keeping them safe. 
  • Educate Your Kids. Kids might seem tech-savvy but as these facts show they’re regularly finding themselves in troubling territory. They too need to know the threats and how to stay safe and use the internet positively.
  • Monitor and Set Limits. Just as you do this in other areas from eating well to making sure schoolwork gets done to knowing where your child is going with friends, the parents’ role is to monitor and set boundaries. 

Closing Thoughts and Next Steps

We invite you to read our book to truly become prepared for the task of protecting your kids online. We fully cover each of these topics and many others. You will come know the prevalence and the motivation of those behind these threats. You will learn the signs your child may be a victim in each of the areas. You will get in-depth, concrete guidance for what to do to protect your child from unsafe experiences and what to do if your child has already had a negative experience online. 

About the Author

Lilla Dale McManis, MEd., PhD., is the co-author of "How To Protect Your Kids Online: The Ultimate ‘How To’ Parent’s Guide". She is a founding member of the Early Childhood Technology Collaborative and has worked for the last decade in the area of education and technology. Dr. McManis is President & CEO of Parent in the Know and believes strongly in translating research into meaningful practice.

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