Study shows kids' willingness to meet people they interact with online, other security habits

In the survey, 27 percent of kids aged 8 to 16 said they would meet, or have met, someone in person they first interacted with online.
In the survey, 27 percent of kids aged 8 to 16 said they would meet, or have met, someone in person they first interacted with online.

A survey of teens and preteens found that 27 percent of kids would meet, or have already met, someone they first interacted with online.

The study, commissioned by Intel Security, surveyed 1,001 young people, aged 8 to 16, and a matching number of parents in the U.S. The online poll was conducted from April 28 to May 12 by MSI International.

While a significant number of kids were OK with meeting individuals from online, the survey revealed that 28 percent of parents were most concerned about their children “unknowingly interacting with predators/pedophiles.” Furthermore, 21 percent of parents feared that their children might interact with any strangers online, an Intel Security release detailing the findings said.

In a Thursday interview with SCMagazine.com, Intel Security's Online Safety Expert Stacey Conner, said that the break in attitudes among parents and kids was “cause for concern” regarding online habits that could impact children's physical safety.

“There seems to be a sense of safety and security [kids have] when they are in their online world,” Conner said. “Just because you are talking to a stranger online, it feels safer," she said of their attitudes. "Countless school and parent programs are dedicated to ‘stranger danger.' Yet, kids seem to feel they are just engaging with people online. That doesn't mean that that person is going to turn out to be a [danger], but it is cause for concern. It could end out very bad.”

An area of the survey where kids and parents were more aligned in their attitudes was on protecting personal data.

Most parents, 89 percent, said it was important that their children receive online safety or cybersecurity training on how to better protect their personal information, the survey said. Similarly, 83 percent of teens and preteens said they were concerned about the “privacy of their personal information,” while 55 percent believed that someone gaining access to their personal data was the “worst activity” that could happen to them online.

Despite their concerns, however, 29 percent of youth admitted to knowing others' passwords. Among those who had access to other individuals' login credentials, 56 percent said they used them to “see if the person is talking to an ex.”

Thirty-eight percent said they wanted to see “private photos,” while 24 percent hoped to “dig up dirt on the other person,” the survey release said.  

Along with the survey results, Intel shared a list of “Top 5 Cyber Parenting Tips to Help Facilitate Online Safety,” which entailed advice like frequently communicating with kids about online risks, setting rules about password sharing with friends, and reading app reviews (so that parents are in the know about apps “suitable” for children, in maturity level and regarding data collection policies). Parents were also encouraged to keep track of their kids' passwords for social media accounts and to remain knowledgeable about the latest technology and social media platforms.

“Technology is only going to become a bigger and bigger part of our lives, and we need to find out how [kids] can use it in as safe an environment as possible,” Conner told SCMagazine.com.

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