Parents Lack Skills to Supervise Children Online

Parents are anxious about the Internet content their children are viewing, but many lack the time, understanding, and tools to help their children develop discerning Web skills, according to a Pathfinder Study by Arbitron NewMedia.

According to the study, children age 8-15 show considerably more involvement with PCs and the Web than the US adult population. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of children report using the Web, compared to only 39 percent of all persons aged 16-74. Nearly three-quarters of adults (71 percent) are extremely concerned about children’s Web habits and believe that careful adults supervision is needed. Almost half (45 percent) of adults think the Internet is dangerous to children due to easy access of its adult content.

The study also found that parents are often not home during their children’s prime time for Web usage — after school — and children rarely turn to adults as a source of Web information.

“As they do with television, children need parents to help them develop critical thinking skills in order to separate fact, fiction, and opinion on the Web,” said Dr. Roberta McConochie, director of research at Arbitron NewMedia. “However, parents lack the confidence, skills, and resources to help their children master and analyze the Web.”

According to McConochie, most children realize their parents lack knowledge of the Web, giving parents fewer opportunities to instruct their children on Internet use.

Where Children Turn for
Information About the Web
Friends 54%
Teachers 6%
Parents 5%
Source: Arbitron NewMedia

As a result, children are relying on their peers as sources of Web intelligence, the study found. More than half of the children surveyed (54 percent) cited their friends as their first source of intelligence for Web sites, far outnumbering mentions for teachers (6 percent) and parents (5 percent). Among children ages 11-15, nearly two-thirds look to their friends as a resource for Web sites, but even children ages 8-10 mention their peers (25 percent) more often than their parents (9 percent) or teachers (12 percent).

The Arbitron study also found that children look to the Web more than any other source to help with “important school projects.” More than one-third of the children surveyed cited the Internet as their first choice for research information over more traditional forms of media such as books and magazines (23 percent) and the library (18 percent). The study also showed that nearly half of children ages 11-15 mentioned the Web as their first choice of information for research.

When it comes to relaxing and sharing good news with their friends, television and telephones still lead the way with children, the study found. Children cited television (44 percent) as their first choice of after-school activity. In addition, two-thirds of children prefer to phone their friends to share news. Only 4 percent prefer to post messages on the Web, and 3 percent go into chat areas.

Arbitron’s Pathfinder study is an on-going survey of consumer behavior and new media preferences. The sample for this part of the study included 457 children and 457 adults.

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