U.S. Parents Report Their Kids Will Increase Time Spent Online This Summer

National Cyber Security Alliance Survey Reveals Startling Few Parents Make Internet Monitoring Via Cell Phones a Priority, Focusing Instead on Laptops, PCs

Jun 16, 2010, 11:02 ET from National Cyber Security Alliance

WASHINGTON, June 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- For most American school children, summer vacation is officially underway, and with scores of young people away from the classroom, many of them will spend their free time on the Internet – that's according to their parents.

Nearly 30 percent of parents report their kids will spend more time online this summer than they did during the school year.  More than 50 percent said their children will spend the same amount of time online, according to a new national survey of parents with kids ages 18 and under released today by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and conducted by Zogby International.

"Other recent studies* have found that young people are already spending more than seven hours a day either using a Web-enabled device or viewing entertainment media. Our finding that nearly a third of kids will spend even more time online this summer should be wake-up call for all parents," said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the NCSA. "We must ensure that children know how to use the Internet safely and securely across all types of access devices."

Parents Confident in Kids' Online Safety But Missing Mark on Key Devices

Approximately 75 percent of parents report they are either "very confident" or "somewhat confident" that their children know how to stay safe on the Internet.  Their confidence may be sustained by their own reported awareness of their kid's online activities as nearly 86 percent of parents say they regularly monitor what their children are doing on the Internet, the NCSA survey found.

However, parental monitoring of online activity is largely confined to just two devices, with 82 percent of parents reporting they most often monitor their child's personal computer or laptop.  

Missing for parents is the importance of keeping tabs on their kid's online activities via the cell phone and gaming consoles. In stark contrast to other devices, less than one percent of parents prioritize cell phones or gaming consoles as the devices that they most often check to see how their kids are using the Internet, the NCSA survey revealed.

The finding is particularly surprising in light of exponential growth of cell phone use among children. An April 2010 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 75 percent of 12-to-17 year olds today have their own phones, often using the phone's network access to visit websites, text, and send instant messages to friends.

Video games are even more popular. More than 31 percent of the parents in the NCSA survey reported that their kids will spend most of their online time this summer playing video games, a finding that is even more striking given that less than one percent of parents plan to make monitoring the gaming console a top priority. Fully 97 percent of 12-to-17 year olds play computer, Web, portable and console games – games that often require an Internet connection to interact with other players, found a separate Pew study.

Social networking and video sites will also be popular with kids this summer. Twenty-five percent of parents reported their kids would most likely be visiting social networking sites, and nearly 16 percent said their kids would be watching online videos this summer. Many parents might not be aware that one must be at least 13 years old to legitimately have an account on mainstream networking and video sites. Parents should check the terms of service before allowing children younger than age 13 to open accounts for any online services.

"Parents need to be prepared for the new wave of Web-enabled mobile devices. The family home computer is no longer the only device in the house that connects to the Internet," Kaiser advised. "There's the cell phone, video gaming, and now newer technologies such as the Apple iPad that get much of their functionality through Internet access. Parents need to be aware of how their kids are using these various technologies and take the time to teach young people how  to use them safely and securely."

Internet Safety Tips

NCSA's website, http://staysafeonline.org, offers Internet safety and security tips for parents and their children, with advice on how to tackle many of the issues uncovered by the survey, including smart phones and online gaming safety. To access tip sheets, visit NCSA online and join NCSA's Facebook page to stay up to date on how to stay safe and secure online.

The Zogby survey was conducted June 4-7, 2010, with a sample size of 580 U.S. parents with children ages 18 or younger. The margin of error is +/- 4.2 percentage points.

* A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found that  kids ages 8 to 18 spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes, or more than 53 hours a week, engaging in various forms of new media, much of it online.

About The National Cyber Security Alliance

The National Cyber Security Alliance is a nonprofit organization. Through collaboration with the government, corporate, non-profit and academic sectors, the mission of the NCSA is to empower a digital citizenry to use the Internet securely and safely protecting themselves and the technology they use and the digital assets we all share. NCSA works to create a culture of cyber security and safety through education and awareness activities. Visit www.staysafeonline.org for more information.

SOURCE National Cyber Security Alliance