Study: Parents Say Internet Is Good For Kids
If you’re worried about the effects of your kid spending time on the Internet, a new study says you may be able to take a breather.
The study, released in November of this year by the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), found that parents are split on their overall concern over their child’s technology use, but overwhelmingly agree that time spent online has a positive impact on a child’s future.
The Upsides of Internet for Kids
The study, which surveyed 587 parents online and conducted three focus groups in the suburbs of Philadelphia, found that 78 percent of parents believe that a child’s future, life skills and career are positively impacted by technology, and 64 percent think technology makes a child more creative. A majority of parents see a connection between a child’s technology skills and ability to do research with time spent in front of a computer.
“Parents recognize and value the positive impact that technology and the Internet can have on their child’s future, creativity, communications skills and education,” said Stephen Balkam, founder and CEO of FOSI, in a press release for the study.
Many parents also see a benefit for themselves in having a tech-savvy kid. More than half say they’ve learned something about smartphones and tablets from asking their child, while around 30 percent say their child has taught them about texting and social media.
However, parents’ major concern when it comes to kids and computers is how safe their child’s personal information is.
Protecting Our Children’s Digital Identity
Earlier this month, VTech Holdings, a digital toy manufacturer, revealed that a hacker had broken into its database, which held information on the names, birthdays and genders of 6.4 million children.
The breach leaves children vulnerable to identity theft. A child’s identity is more valuable to identity thieves because they have clean credit and a longer life ahead of them, Trend Micro Inc Chief Cybersecurity Officer Tom Kellermann told Reuters.
The government regulates how digital companies can collect and store information on children under the age of 13 through the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA). The law is meant to keep companies from collecting unnecessary personal information or holding on to that information for too long. It doesn’t prevent companies from accumulating data on children.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) sent a letter to VTech on Dec. 2 questioning the company’s compliance with COPPA. At least two states have launched investigations into the company.
“Technology’s opportunities also require recognition of its challenges, however, and more parents need to be aware of the available resources and tools that will enable good digital parenting and keep our kids safe online,” Balkam said.
Using Parental Controls
Almost all parents surveyed said they had rules for their children when they go online. Many limit the kinds of websites their child can visit or accounts they can have, and almost 60 percent are confident that they can keep track of their child’s activity online. Thirty-six percent say they have used parental control software.
Despite the dangers of the Internet, many parents who don’t use parental controls, say it’s because they trust their child to be safe and appropriate on the Internet.
However, according to clinical psychologist Tracy Bennett, phD, who is an adjunct faculty at CSUCI, this is one of the greatest mistakes parents make. The frontal lobe, which controls our ability to make decisions, isn’t fully developed until we are 25 years old.
“Trusting a child to make decisions which they are not capable of making is a huge mistake,” Bennett states. Parents HAVE to supervise their children to make sure they are not making mistakes due to peer pressure, a desire to fit in, or incorrect judgement.
Overall, giving children access to the internet is overwhelmingly positive, but with this great privilege comes great risks, and parents need to monitor their children to keep them safe from predators and dangers.