When It Comes To Online Safety For Kids, Some Races Are More Concerned Than Others

159582697I’m terrified of my child’s future social media use. I’m that mom sending my stepdaughter stories of horrific things that happen to girls who communicate with strangers on the Internet. That’s probably not a great tactic – but I am genuinely terrified of the access that total strangers have to children. I just am.

With Facebook easing up on their privacy terms for children and Instagram offering “photo maps” which actually map the location where pictures are taken – I don’t think I’m being too paranoid. Online access for our children is dangerous – and it just seems to be getting more and more so.

A new survey was done to see just how scared parents were of their child’s Internet use. Researchers analyzed data from over 1,000 parents who were asked how worried they were about five different types of online dangers; their children meeting someone who means to do harm, being exposed to pornographic content, being exposed to violent content, being a victim of online bullying and bullying another child online. A parent’s race, income and political views seem to affect how concerned they are:

White parents were the least concerned about all online safety issues, the researchers found. Asian and Hispanic parents were more likely to be concerned about all online safety issues. Black parents were more concerned than white parents about their children meeting harmful strangers or being exposed to pornography.

The study, published recently in the journal Policy & Internet, also found that urban parents tended to be more concerned about online threats to their children than suburban or rural parents. In addition, college-educated parents had lower levels of fear than those with less education.

Who knows why this is the case. I’m assuming that parents in urban areas are exposed to more perceived dangers than those in rural areas – but that’s just a guess.

I think everyone should be concerned. It’s just become added to the list of “talks” we have to have with our kids; sex, drugs, bullying, strangers and now the Internet. The Internet disturbs me because of its potential to bring people you don’t know at all into contact with your child. To me, that’s tantamount to having them in my home. That concerns me.

(photo: Getty Images)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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    • LadyClodia

      My boys are still small, and so don’t use the internet much (only Disney Jr. and maybe Nick Jr.) I do worry about what they’re going to be exposed to when they are online. Sometimes I put kids videos from Youtube on, but I worry about them clicking around randomly on Youtube because who knows what they’re going to get into on there. I have no idea what things will be like when they’re older, but I’m going to do my best to keep them safe.
      The thing that confuses me now has been the move to use real names online and in social media. 15 years ago we never would have dreamed of using our real names, and we only gave them out to people who had earned our trust. Maybe there’s more transparency now, but the whole thing just seems less safe to me.

    • Tea

      I can vouch for the rural and suburban white parents not being as concerned, I first met my husband when he was still living at home, days after turning 18, and ended up driving 4 hours to come visit me.

      Granted, this was back in the day when my mom and pastor pitched an ever loving fit thinking that a photo of myself online would flood me with stalkers, and people were still deleting their “Bear virus”.

    • SarahJesness

      I suppose college educated people tend to be more concerned because they might be likely to use the internet more, and would therefore know more about what’s on it. Thanks to Rule 34, it’s very easy to come across porn on accident, even when looking for kid-friendly stuff.

      Can’t say anything about the race or the urban/suburban/rural divide, though. I suppose rural people might have fewer concerns for the same reasons as people with less education, you know, less exposure to the internet and all.

      • SusannahJoy

        Er, might want to double check that. It said the educated people are less afraid.

      • SarahJesness

        Ah, my bad. I read the thing multiple times to make sure I wasn’t misreading and I STILL misread! I feel stupid, ha ha.

        Anyway. I imagine it connects to more educated people using the internet, so they’re more comfortable with it, I guess.

    • Simone

      The term ‘race’ is no longer used scientifically or sociologically, only culturally. There is insufficient scientific basis for dividing humanity on the basis of ‘race’, as there is more variation between genes on the basis of height than there is on the basis of other so-called ‘racial’ markers like skin colour, eye shape, etc. The proper term to use it ‘ethnicity’ as this takes into account the far more substantial cultural divisions associated with people and sometimes aligned with distinctive physical characteristics.
      Hope this has come across as helpful and friendly as it was intended to.

      • Simone

        Downvoted for being accurate? Wha-hey! Tell me more about what’s wrong with my attention to detail.

      • SarahJesness

        Just because it doesn’t exist in science, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in culture, and it doesn’t mean that race doesn’t have an impact on things. Even if the black person and the white person can’t have their race identified by genotype, they might still have different experiences growing up in the same place. They might get treated differently, they develop different perceptions of things, and so on. Most of these studies probably use whatever race the people identify as when trying to determine if black and white people, on average, feel differently about certain things.

    • Byron

      To me the interesting part here is that educated parents tended to be less worried. It seems that technophobia and ignorance has a lot to do with this fear.

      I don’t get why you need to tackle this in a racial angle btw, you could have tackled it in many different angles such as the one of educated vs uneducated parents or old vs young parents.

    • Cee

      My parents put the family computer in the trunk of their car the day they found out I was chatting with people online…

    • AP

      I have a friend who works for an anti-gang initiative, where they convince teenagers in gangs to stop killing each other over dumb stuff. He said that a lot of the things the gang members are shooting each other over are social networking posts. Someone disrespected someone on Twitter or posted a flirty post on someone’s girl’s Facebook timeline, and to take a stand against it, they shoot at the guy who did it (or his friends, they’re not picky.)
      For some kids, in some neighborhoods, danger on the internet is more tangible than boogeyman pedophiles. (Which exist, but are far less common than teenage gangbangers.)

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      The amount of times an innocent search (researching breast cancer/rashes) has popped up a porn site is amazing. I admit, aside from being horrified that it is so easily accessible, I do have to admire their gall a little
      We have very strict rules with regards to the internet in our house- 13 year old is on Facebook, only because we told him two very simple rules-
      He can only go on with us right beside him.
      We have his password and can check his page regularly and his messages.

      If he complains once, he’s off for a week. If he complains again, he’s off for good.
      We have gotten some flack off people for him being on it in the first place, but he has a lot of relatives including cousins his age living abroad and it is a cheap and convenient way for him to keep in touch. Plus we believe if we denied him access at all, he’d only find a way at a friends house, and there lies the problem.
      We monitor EVERYTHING he does.

    • Kay_Sue

      The technophobia aspect is the most intriguing to me, to be truthful. The cultural differences aside, that’s a big deal.

      Technology is such a massive part of the world, it’s important for parents to understand it. Our generation is really the last where having computer skills gives you an edge–in our children’s generations, it will be a foregone conclusion. If parents have inaccurate information about internet usage, they are likely not going to be promoting healthy usage by their kids.

      It also points at the continuing disparity along the socioeconomic strata in our society.

      I’d honestly love to see more research into it. It’s a fascinating discourse on our social interaction, norms and more.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      I’m so torn about this stuff. I want to give my kid freedom and privacy – things my parents gave me in spades, I didn’t take advantage of them (much) but the internet was so new then…..I don’t know what I’ll do when my kid’s old enough to be using the internet. I know parents who have all their kid passwords and they monitor everything, and I know parents who give their kids absolute freedom. Is there a middle ground? I don’t know.

      • SarahJesness

        I suppose a middle ground could be basing on the kid herself. Only snoop when you think they’re up to something.

        Minimal monitoring is also an option. Checking internet history. You see they’re using Facebook, you don’t sneak onto their Facebook, but if you see if they’re on a website you don’t approve of and you can talk to her or whatever parents do.