Symantec released their annual Norton Online Family Report today. They surveyed nearly 10,000 kids and adults about their online experiences. But are the numbers as bad as Symantec suggests?
About the report
The Norton Online Family Report 2010 was released today. The survey was completed by 2,805 children between the ages of 8-17 and 7,066 adults 18 or older. From the group of adults, 1,669 were parents of children between the ages of 8-17, who completed an additional survey that was parent-focussed. The survey was completed by people in 14 countries.
Some key findings from the report that are Canadian-specific include:
- While the majority of Canadian parents say they have house rules in place surrounding their child’s use of the Internet (69 percent), only 42 percent have actually set parental controls on their family computer
- Only 49 percent of parents in Canada think their child has experienced a negative online situation, while 61 percent of Canadian children reported that they have
- Canadian kids are most likely to feel upset (50 percent), angry (45 percent), or afraid (36 percent) following a negative online situation
- 40 percent of Canadian children report that they are more careful about their online activities than their parents
- 83 percent of Canadian children say they follow their family’s rules for Internet use
- Kids’ own rules/etiquette for being online revolve around not bullying or being mean to others online (80 percent), telling a parent/teacher/guardian if they are being bullied or harassed online (77 percent), and telling a parent/teacher/guardian if they suspect someone else is being bullied or harassed online (72 percent).
Additional highlights from the report
Symantec’s press release which announces the Norton Online Family Report says:
“Kids are feeling the powerful emotional impact of negative online experiences. Children are most likely to feel angry (39 percent), upset (36 percent), afraid (34 percent) and fearful/worried (34 percent) as a result of such an incident. One-fifth of kids worldwide regret something they’ve done online. Further, kids feel some personal responsibility for these negative experiences, especially downloading a virus or being scammed.”
The headline of the press release looks like this:
2,800 Kids Worldwide Speak Out on Cyber Safety: Not All Fun and Games Online
Norton Report Finds Over Six in 10 Kids Have Had Negative Online Experiences—From Exposure to Nudity and Violence to Having a Stranger Try to Meet Them in Real Life
What do these numbers mean?
So, it’s clear Norton is trying to paint a grim picture; one that illustrates we have serious cause for concern about our kids’ online experiences. And of course the company who dominates the world of security software is going to try to make this survey look as negative as possible; after all, the more worry and concern they can instil in parents about their kids’ online activities, the more software they’re sure to sell.
Let’s revisit the above quote from Symantec’s press release, the one that says: “Kids are feeling the powerful emotional impact of negative online experiences. Children are most likely to feel angry (39 percent), upset (36 percent), afraid (34 percent) and fearful/worried (34 percent) as a result of such an incident. One-fifth of kids worldwide regret something they’ve done online. Further, kids feel some personal responsibility for these negative experiences, especially downloading a virus or being scammed.”
To me, that looks like only a small percentage of kids are actually “feeling the powerful emotional impact of negative experiences.” If I were to download a virus or get scammed, I would be angry too (mostly at myself for my own stupidity). Depending on the type of people the parents are, it’s understandable that these children may feel worried or afraid. Additionally, I’m surprised that only one-fifth of kids feel regret over something they’ve done online. As far as I’m concerned, those are great numbers! When you take into account all the possible actions and experiences a kid has online for which they could feel regret, from accidently viewing online porn, to downloading a virus, to posting something slightly embarrassing on their Facebook wall, if only one-fifth of kids feel regret, in my opinion, that shows that kids are really thinking about what they do before they do it. No? And lastly, of course kids are going to feel some personal responsibility for these negative experiences, and shouldn’t they? The old saying “live and learn” comes to mind here. If they didn’t feel any form of responsibility, how would they learn from their mistakes? If there was no personal regret or feelings of responsibility, wouldn’t the kid just do it again and again?
Don’t these numbers look like a positive thing to you, rather than the negative picture the Norton report is trying to paint? Do these numbers not indicate that children and parents have come a long way and are showing that they are more aware of what they’re doing online?
What do I do?
So, what do I do to ensure my 13 year old son has positive online experiences and isn’t getting up to no good (whether unintentional or not)? Above all else and most importantly, I talk to him. I educate him on the dangers and consequences of posting things online that he shouldn’t. I make clear to him what my expectations and rules are on what he can and cannot post online, such as what personal information is and is not allowed to be shared. I also teach him the importance of not sharing his passwords with anyone, even his best friends. I let my son know that even taking all precautions, he may still find himself viewing inappropriate content that, if this does happen, to simply let me know and that he is not in trouble. Despite my best efforts to educated and talk to my son about all of this, I’m not naive enough to think that we can avoid all negative online experiences or that my son will tell me everything (as far as I’m concerned, any parent who thinks their kid tells all has their heads stuck in the clouds!), so I take a few more steps in protecting him from bad online experiences.
I use OpenDNS, adjusting the filters to block all adult-related sites, illegal activity, etc. I also review his online history on a regular basis (even though I am fully aware he could be deleting it). And finally, I threaten him. Yup. Perhaps the most effective, I tell him that if he’s caught doing anything inappropriate, I will install monitoring software that will record absolutely everything he does or take his computers – and everything that provides him access to the internet, like his Xbox and iPod touch – away for an indefinite amount of time. And I mean it. My son knows it isn’t an empty threat, which I think is very important. Of course, we also have security software installed on his computer too, which helps keep his computer free from viruses and other malicious software.
What do you do?
Do you find the Norton Online Family Report to be a negative or positive thing? What do you do to ensure your kids’ online experiences are the best that they can be? Let us know!