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A new survey shows that parents of kids who spend time online are blissfully, and sadly, unaware of the consequences. The survey reveals some alarming facts. Of the 456 parent-child pairs surveyed, almost 1/3 of all 10 to 16 year old youth admitted that they had been bullied online. However, just 10% of parents were aware that any cyberbullying was going on. Parents also seriously underestimated how often their young child was exposed to online pornography, which according to a 2007 study can be significant. The 2007 study notes that around 42%  of Internet users aged 10 to 17 were exposed to online pornography within a recent 12-month span — and that’s based on outdated statistics.  Current online pornography exposure among youth is thought to be much worse. According to researchers on the study, their main finding was that there’s a vast amount of parent-child disconnect and this highlights the need for greater parental involvement in their child’s cyber world. Study author Sahara Byrne, an associate professor of communication at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. notes, “Parents need to ask [of kids] how they’re doing online from the moment they can access it, and keep asking even if they don’t want to share or don’t have anything to share.” Keep reading to see more statistics from the study and to learn how you can protect your child when he or she goes online.

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Some findings from the survey:

  • Parents who firmly believed their child was less likely to run into trouble online than other children, were also more likely to assume their child had never been bullied online or approached by an online stranger.
  • Parents who feel children need more privacy while online, were more likely to underestimate exposure to cyber-bullying.
  • 15% of youth polled admitted to having cyber-bullied someone else while only 5% of the youths parents knew their child was an online bully.
  • Parents who use a more lax (or “permissive”) method of parenting style were at times more likely to underestimate how much their child was exposed to online sexual content, but in most cases, there was no single parenting style associated with being able to assess a child’s risk online. Most parents, across the board failed to know their child was being exposed to anything bad.
  • Oddly, parents who allow their kids to use the Internet in a private space, were able to more accurately predict their child’s exposure to sexual content online.

The researchers note that overall, their survey results show that most parents seriously need to up their game when it comes to communicating with kids about online content and protecting them from online harm. Byrne notes, “No child is above risks, or too smart for the risks. And our study suggests that if you think your child is smarter than others when online, you might be among those who are unaware of what’s going on.” The recent suicide of a young cyberbullied girl confirms that parents really need to be on the ball. In order to learn how to keep your child safer while online, see the following resources:

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