A new study shows how many children are bullied online and how few understand the importance of Internet safety. The study, which will be published in the International Journal of Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments, includes a survey of more than 4,200 middle and high school students about the risks of child identity theft. The report gathered information indicating if children and teens are aware of what information they shouldn't be sharing on social networking sites as well as behaviors that could lead to cyberbullying and identity theft.
Nearly nine out of every 10 children have access to a computer and 93 percent of teens use the Internet, the survey showed. Just one-third of middle school students and 17 percent of high school students said their parents monitor their Internet use. Many of the participants have experienced cyberbullying and have little knowledge of Internet safety, the survey also revealed.
"The need to monitor children's behaviors has become increasingly difficult with the extension of the Internet and cellphones," the team of researchers from Johnson & Wales University, in Providence, R.I., said. "No longer are children safe and sound in their home or school. In fact, the threats found on the Internet may be more dangerous and threatening since there are often no barriers."
The team also said many teens think online identity theft won't happen to them and see taking steps to prevent the crime as trivial and unnecessary.
Educating Children About Proper Internet Use
As the popularity of social media websites continues, and cyber criminals come up with new ways to hack into user profiles, it's important for children and teens to know that they shouldn't share certain personal information online. Social profiles on websites should be private, and users should limit the information they post, the Better Business Bureau reported. For instance, it's probably not necessary to post your home address on your Facebook page.
Regularly checking your child's privacy settings on a social network and making sure they change their passwords regularly will also protect against identity theft.
"You're not going be around your children 24/7, so teach [your children] safe online protocol," Denis Kelly, author of "The Official Identity Theft Prevention Handbook," from told U.S. News recently. "Understand that they shouldn't be providing any information that they wouldn't tell a stranger. Once it's [online] it's permanent."
Matt Cullina is chief executive officer of IDentity Theft 911.
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