With the advent of social networks, Kids are becoming highly vulnerable to serious offences like cyberbullying. A recent nationwide study of over 1,000 parents of teens 15 or younger, commissioned by SocialShield, shows that most parents are concerned about the risks social networks pose to their kids. Few parents, however, know how to protect their kids online, and even fewer parents use the necessary tools and techniques to ensure their children's safety.
The risks for children on social networks are real and go well beyond being exposed to inappropriate content. Numerous young teens have recently been prosecuted for cyberbullying, and there have been several young-teen suicides blamed on cyberbullying, including a recent Seattle area case where an 11-year old and 12-year old girl are facing felony charges for allegedly cyberstalking a classmate(i). Additionally, new social sites are now popping up providing forums for cyberbullying. And, highlighting the seriousness of these issues, President Obama recently invited SocialShield's founders to the White House along with other technology experts to provide their views on cyberbullying and child safety.
Adult males including convicted sex offenders often invite young teenage girls to become their online friends, and these online friendships can turn into physical meetings resulting in rape or murder with the parents unaware of what was going on. SocialShield's technology has already discovered such sex-offenders contacting children and has been able to intervene before the situation escalates. Also, shockingly, human traffickers are now using social networks as a tool to recruit slaves.
The SocialShield study, conducted by research firm MarketTools, shows that over 40% of parents polled were aware of one or more of such incidents happening to their child or a friend of their child, and, of course, that does not include the incidents they are unaware of. Parents are certainly not taking the situation lightly, as 80% of those surveyed claim that they "actively monitor" their child's social networking behavior. But the major parental problem is that most of these parents do not realize that their approach to monitoring falls way short of what is really needed to keep their children safe online.
The SocialShield survey identified parents' top concerns about social networks as: being contacted by inappropriate strangers; broadcasting location information which is viewable by strangers; exposure to inappropriate content such as drugs, violence and pornography; and posting information that could tarnish the child's reputation and affect school suspension, college admissions or job prospects; and, of course, cyberbullying.
Perhaps the most interesting result of the survey was that most parents reported that their young teens have either friended them, or have given parents their log-in credentials.
Tags: Social network, cyberbullying, violence, SocialShield