Washington, Feb 5: When it comes to surfing the Internet, there is an vast gap between what kids do and what their parents think they are doing. According to a new study, conducted by Prof. Dafna Lemish from the Department of Communication at Tel Aviv University, it was found that parents don't know what their kids are doing on the Internet. In the study, the researcher surveyed parents and their children about the children's activities on the Internet.
In one part of the research, Lemish surveyed over 500 Jewish and Arab children from a variety of ages and socio-economic backgrounds, asking them if they gave out personal information online. Seventy-three percent said that they do. The parents of the same children believed that only 4 percent of their children did so. The same children were also asked if they had been exposed to pornography while surfing, or if they had made face-to-face contact with strangers that they had met online. Thirty-six percent from the high school group admitted to meeting with a stranger they had met online. Nearly 40 percent of these children admitted to speaking with strangers regularly.
Fewer than 9 percent of the parents knew that their children had been meeting with strangers, engaging in what could be viewed as very risky behavior. In another part of the study, it was found that 30 percent of children between the ages of 9 and 18 delete the search history from their browsers in an attempt to protect their privacy from their parents.
The researcher suggests that common filtering software may not be effective, since children will access what they are looking for elsewhere, at a friend's house, an Internet cafe, or school.
Lemish believes that one problem is that parents are not as media-literate as they could be. They don't have a handle on using popular online software and chat programs, and tend to have no clue about what is really happening online.
"This lack of knowledge on the parents' part may be no different than the situation before the advent of the Web. Parents don't know what their children are doing on the Net, in the same manner that they don't know what goes on at class, parties, or clubs," she cautioned.
Lemish said that parents should give their children the tools to be literate Internet users, and to navigate around any potential dangers and most importantly, parents need to talk to their children. At the same time, she said, parents should not disregard the advantages of the Internet.
"We tend to forget that it offers our children a source of independence, a way to explore the world, and helps them meet friends whom they could not meet in their real world. As parents, we need to help them explore the positive opportunities the Internet offers them, and to reduce the risks," she said.