On November 12, I had the pleasure of attending the Family Online Safety Institute’s (FOSI) annual conference themed “Redefining Online Safety.” Technology today is dramatically different than it was just a short time ago. Virtually everything is done online or via smartphones and/or tablets. And when it comes to youth, their eyes are always fixed on a screen.
Because of this, FOSI works to ensure that while our young people are online, they are being smart and safe. Recently FOSI conducted research that was shared at the conference by Hart Research Associates to find out just how involved parents are in what their children are doing on their devices.
They used three focus groups of Towson, Md., parents, who have children ages 6-17. The groups were broken down to segments of parents with children ages 6-9, 10-13 and 14-17. The samples were taken in both English and Spanish and, in each aspect of the research, children of participating parents had to use the internet and have access to technology devices.
The findings were very interesting. Of the children who are connected, they are heavily connected. 58% of all parents say their children personally have three or more technological devices (computer, video game console, cell phone, tablet or MP3 player). That’s quite a bit of networking. In regards to cell phone usage, the surveys revealed that 63% of children have a smartphone while 25% have a feature phone. It’s also noted that the average age at which children get their own cell phone is 11 years old.
Overall, most parents are relatively confident in their ability to manage their child’s technology use with 26% saying that they are “very confident.” Of that percentage, most were parents of children age 6-9. That goes to show that as kids get older, the less management a parent feels they need to have of their child’s online and phone activities.
The most important matter is the issue of safety. Only 37% feel that their child is “very safe” online, while 56% believe their child is only “somewhat safe.” Even so, the majority of parents surveyed (53%) think that the potential benefits outweigh the potential harms of online use, while 42% believe there is an equal balance between the two and 5% think the harms outweigh the benefits.
The silver lining in these numbers is that parents do talk to their children about both the positives and negatives of online activity. Of the parents surveyed, 65%say they talk to their kids regularly whenever they think it is appropriate. This is the key to ensuring they stay safe and are developing safe online communication habits.
Overall, although the age of technology users is getting younger, parents are optimistic and comfortable with their child being connected. Keeping up with the advances and keeping the lines of communication open about proper usage and staying informed are the keys to ensuring the development of good digital parenting.
To view the full research results and statistics, visit https://www.fosi.org/policy-research/parenting-digital-age/.