A Quarter of all Underage Kids Will Meet with Complete Strangers

According to a new Intel Security study, more than 2,000 American parents and kids ages 8-16 were surveyed to unveil some interesting things.12D

  • 79% of the juvenile respondents learned online safety from their parents.
  • 35% of them said they’ve been a cyberbully.
  • 27% of them said they have met, or would meet, a person in real life who they initially met online.

Technology is often blamed for all of this. But what drives these behaviors is the same force that drives the schoolyard bully to trip the bookworm and steal his lunch, or the lonely girl to get into a stranger’s car after school: parenting!

Parents need to get more involved and bone-up on their cyber smarts! Because, according to our kids, 79% of them learn online safety from you —the parent

  • Your kids want a social media account? Great—you get to have their password in exchange. Leave no other deal on the table.
  • Did you know it’s legal for parents to use monitoring software on their kids’ devices? Monitoring isn’t a break in trust. It’s simply an exercise in smart parenting.
  • Parents think because they are on Facebook with their kids, that they are “informed” about their kids’ activities. Facebook is like going out to dinner with a tween. They tolerate it, but are embarrassed by you. And while they behave in public, they may not be so well-behaved when unsupervised.
  • Apps such as Kik, Snapchat, Instagram and many others are potential platforms where risky business can take place. And these are some of the sites parents are less familiar with. Which is why you should be there.
  • Discuss with your kids the sites you do not want them visiting —including “pro-ana” sites that give tips on how to waste down to skin and bones, and other sites that give advice on how to cheat on tests. If you’re not familiar with these sites, search for them.
  • Tell them they should never reveal their password to a friend any more than they would give that friend the key to their diary (if they had a diary, of course).
  • Reinforce with your kids that anything they post online will outlive the galaxy. Digital is forever.
  • Make sure your kids are made to feel at ease approaching you about online worries or concerns. Never make them feel they’ll be judged, criticized or blown off over any questions or comments. Don’t set yourself up to be a “Why didn’t she come to ME about this?” type of parent.
  • Cover your bases: Educate your kids about common hacking scams, install parental control software and make sure your entire family’s devices have security software installed and that it’s always updated.

Digital lives are no different than physical lives and need to be treated with the same care and concern. While parents may think they have a handle on their kids’ online lives, they probably don’t. It takes a bit of denial to function as a parent because if a parent actually thought through all the horrors a kid can get into, they’d cease to function. As a result, some parents go the complete other direction and fool themselves into thinking everything’s just peachy.

Understand this: It’s not the same today as when we were kids. We know this. But the big difference is when kids fall today, they fall harder and it’s on a national and sometimes international scale that can impact the whole family.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Safety Expert to Intel Security. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!