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New McAfee Study – Teenagers Confidence In Staying Safe Online Misplaced

image McAfee Inc., a well known provider of antivirus software and intrusion prevention solutions, has just released its most recent research data on the behavior of young people, while using the Internet.

The Youth Online Behavior Study, of 1,357 young people between the ages of 10 and 17 in the United States, conducted in May of this year, reinforces previous McAfee studies which indicated that teenagers have misplaced confidence in their ability to stay safe online.

While ninety-five percent of teenagers say they are confident they can remain safe online, survey results show a wide chasm exists between the perception, and the reality.

One of the more harmful urban myths, continually perpetuated by security providers, including McAfee, despite their own evidence to the contrary is – we have raised, or are raising a “tech savvy” generation.

I find the dichotomy to be just slightly less than bizarre. It’s little wonder that most parents believe it. This “truth” however, should not be taken at face value.

Simply because a teenager is more comfortable with technology than a parent, does not makes a teenager tech savvy. Knowing how to text message, or load a game onto an Xbox, does not make one “tech savvy”. It really is a situation where “they don’t know what they don’t know”, can have serious impact.

The following selected statistics from the McAfee study offer substantial proof:

More than one quarter (27%) of teens online had accidently allowed their home computer to become infected with a virus or other malware.

One in four kids (25%) report that they wouldn’t know what to do if they were bullied or harassed online.

More teens also admit to giving their cell phone numbers to someone online whom they don’t know in the offline world (12% this year, compared to 8% in 2008).

One quarter (25%) of girls—including 43% of girls ages 16 to 17—admit to chatting online with people they do not know.

Girls are also more likely than boys to get harassed online, share their passwords with friends, give a description of what they look like to strangers, and share photos of themselves.

Boys are more likely to download programs without their parents’ knowledge.

69 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds have included their physical locations on the social networking status updates

16 per cent of the teenagers involved in the McAfee study, indicated they had developed social networking profiles and Email addresses, which they had hidden from their parents.

I found the most surprising and troubling statistic to be; 31 percent of those surveyed stated that they’d change their behaviors if their parents monitored their online behaviors.

You can read the full report, in PDF format, here.

It’s reasonable to state, based on accumulated evidence, that the majority of teenagers, are undereducated when it comes to recognizing the dangers, and threats, that the Internet poses to their personal privacy and safety.

So, if you’re a parent, the following are just some of the questions you should consider:

  1. What social networking sites does your child subscribes to?
  2. Who are their online friends and acquaintances?
  3. What does your child post online and where is it posted?

Most importantly, you and your teenagers need to agree, that the following guidelines will be adhered to. That they will –

Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line.

Never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or an on-line service to people they do not personally know.

Never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number.

Never download applications from an unknown source.

Never respond to messages or social site postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing.

An additional problematic issues is, the issue of sex, tech and teens; more precisely – teenaged sexting. For information on this current issue, please read “Sexting – A Real Problem or an Overreaction?” on this site.

Additional resources:

Microsoft Online Safety

WRAAC.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free and effective Internet control tools.

The FBI Kids’ Page – designed for children and their parents to learn more about the FBI through age-appropriate games, tips, stories and interactives.

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Filed under cybercrime, Internet Safety for Children, Internet Safety for Teenagers, Microsoft, Parenting Help