Parents Fear Net’s Influence

A national survey of parents in households with computers suggests that parents are deeply fearful about the influence the Internet has on their children.

The survey, conducted by Roper Starch Worldwide and released by The Annenberg Public Policy Center, shows that 78 percent of parents are “strongly” or “somewhat” concerned that their children might give away personal information on the Internet. An equal percentage fear children might view sexually explicit material online.

Nearly two-thirds of parents (64 percent) believe the Internet can cause their children to become isolated, while only 35 percent say the Internet can have a community-building influence.

Almost half of the parents interviewed (49 percent) claim using the Internet might interfere with parents’ ability to teach values and beliefs, and 42 percent believe too much Internet use can cause children to develop anti-social behavior.

Parents also believe the Net has positive potential. More than half (59 percent) feel children without Internet access are at a disadvantage compared to their peers with access; 75 percent say the Internet is a place for children to discover useful things. Almost three-quarters of the parents (72 percent) say the Internet helps children with their schoolwork.

“Parents are juggling the dream and the nightmare of the Internet at the same time,” said Joseph Turow of the Annenberg Center.

The survey also finds that 32 percent of American parents with online connections are using filtering software, a sign that a substantial proportion of parents are taking active strides to shield their children from what parents consider harmful content.

Interestingly, online and offline parents have similar attitudes toward the Web. The strong determining factor of online use in the in the home in parents’ use of the medium outside the home.

The survey was based on 1,102 interviews with parents of 8-17 year-olds with computers in the home. It has a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

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