With more and more young kids using cell phones and surfing the web, parents are increasingly concerned about children ‘s sexting and Internet safety according to a new poll.
Internet safety rose to become the fourth most commonly identified major problem in the 2015 C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital national poll on children’s health, up from eighth the year before, with 51 percent of adults this year citing it as a top concern.
Sexting, meanwhile, was cited by 45 percent of adults and advanced to number six on the list of most pressing problems this year, from 13th place in 2014.
“The public is well aware of the potential risks to children and teens of Internet activities and sexting, such as cyber-bullying and predatory behavior,” poll director Dr. Matthew Davis of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor said by email with Reuters.
“Children’s use of the Internet continues to grow, so it makes sense that growing use, without much evidence of greater safety, would lead to higher levels of public concern,” he added.
The poll was taken of 1,982 adults age 18 and over and took place in May.
Smoking and tobacco use, usually rated near the top of the list, dropped from fourth to seventh place, which may reflect a declining number of children who have this habit, the researchers note.
School violence ranked number eight, followed by teen pregnancy and stress.
The top 10 health concerns in the poll also highlight a need for parents to foster open communication with children and teens and monitor not just their comings and goings but also their activities online, said Kathleen Davis, director of pediatric palliative care and ethics at the University of Kansas Hospital.
“Parents must take on a greater ‘hands on’ approach to parenting, knowing what their child is texting, emailing, Snap chatting, Facebooking and blogging and with whom they are communicating in those fashions,” Davis, who wasn’t involved in the poll, said by email.
While the new technologies may seem alien, the parenting strategies to deal with children’s online lives should be familiar, noted Lisa Jones, of the Crimes Against Children Research center at the University of New Hampshire.
“Striking the right balance with controlling technology use and access for children, or monitoring their behavior is something I think we are still figuring out and will probably be an ongoing process for parents, just like deciding how much to control what children choose to wear, who they can hang out with, and where they can go on their own,” Jones, who wasn’t involved in the poll, said in an email to Reuters as well.
“The key recommendation for parents is to keep communication open,” she said. “Make sure your children feel comfortable coming to talk to you when problems come up.”
Many teens and pre-teens aren’t aware of the dangers associated with sexting and how those photos and comments can follow you the rest of your life. Without good guidance kids don’t truly realize that it’s become a viral universe and posts can gain speed worldwide before you know it. Also, a child may think that only the person they are sending the text to will see it- that’s not always the case and others, including pedophiles can learn where a child lives, the school he or she goes to and their daily habits by “friending” or following a child or their friends online.
Parents still need to monitor their children’s web surfing and texting as they move from childhood into adolescence. It’s not always a pleasant job, but it’s incredibly important for a child’s health and safety.
Source: Lisa Rapaport, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/10/us-health-kids-internet-safety-idUSKCN0QF1X820150810