The World Wide Web is the greatest invention since the printing press. Nothing else has so radically shaped culture, media, commerce, entertainment, and communication. But with these benefits come great dangers all parents should know about.
(Read more about these dangers in the free book, Parenting the Internet Generation.)
7 Internet Dangers
1. Pornography – Warping the minds of youth
Repeatedly viewing pornography, especially from a young age, can radically shape one’s sexual attitudes and beliefs. Frequent exposures to sexually explicit material is closely linked to more permissive attitudes about sex, such as having multiple sexual partners, “one night stands,” cynicism about the need for affection between sexual partners, casual sexual relations with friends, and even mimicking behaviors seen in pornography.
- More than 1 in 8 web searches are for erotic content.
- 79% of youth’s unwanted exposures to Internet porn take place in the home.
- Before the age of 18, 83% of boys and 57% of girls have seen group sex online.
2. Sexting – The unsafe ‘safe sex’
Sexting is sending or receiving nude or partially nude photos or videos through the Internet or cell phones. When teens engage in this risky behavior, many things can go wrong. These images are easy to forward on to others. At times, these images can be considered “child pornography,” and some teens have already been given felony charges.
- Nearly 1 in 5 teens who receive a sext share it with someone else.
- 20% of teens have sent or posted a nude or semi-nude image of themselves.
- Of those who have sent sexts, 76% of girls and 57% of guys sent it to get someone else to like them.
3. Cyberbullying – The mean way kids treat each other online
Bullying happens on both the playground and in the digital world. Hurtful words are exchanged. Rumors start easily and spread quickly. Profiles and e-mails are hacked. And these types of activities are common today:
- 20% of teens say their peers are “mostly unkind” to each other on social networks.
- 24% of teens and young adults say someone has written something about them online that wasn’t true.
- 9% say someone has threatened to use electronic communication (Facebook, e-mail, text messages, etc.) to tell others private things about them as a form of blackmail.
4. Predators – Those seeking to ensnare our children
The Internet is a perfect forum to meet new people, but some with malicious intent can use it to “befriend” your child. Internet predators are expert manipulators, able to foster a relationship of dependence with a teenager. Most prey on a teen’s desire to be liked, their desire for romance, or their sexual curiosity. Often a predator “grooms” a child through flattery, sympathy, and by investing time in their online relationship. These can then turn into offline relationships or, in extreme cases, opportunities for kidnapping or abduction.
- 76% of predators are 26 or older.
- 47% of offenders are 20 years old than their victims.
- 83% of victims who met their offender face-to-face willingly went somewhere with them.
5. Gaming – More risks of exposure to sexual media and interactions
While online and console games can be very fun, educational, and interactive, there are also hidden dangers. Much of the content of some games include sexual content, violence, and crude language. Plus, Internet-connected games enable kids to interact with strangers, some of which can be bad influences or mean your kids harm.
- 82% of children say they are current gamers.
- One-third of teen gamers (ages 15-17) report playing games with people they first met online.
- 13% of underage teenagers were able to buy Mature-rated games between November 2010 and January 2011.
6. Social Networks – Redefining privacy
Social networks like Facebook are very popular online activities. But parents should be aware of the image their teens are projecting as well as the influences they are absorbing online.
- Despite the 13-year-old minimum, over half of parents of 12-year-olds say their child has a Facebook account, and three-quarters of these helped their child create the account.
- 40% of teens have seen pictures on social networks of their peers getting drunk, passed out, or using drugs, and half of these first saw these pictures when they were 13 or younger.
- More than 11% of teens are “hyper-networkers,” spending more than three hours per school day on social network sites.
7. YouTube – ‘Broadcast yourself’ culture means anything goes
YouTube is the world’s largest video sharing website. But because anyone can upload anything to YouTube, often videos can break the Community Guidelines for YouTube, and even those that do not can still be full of sexual innuendo, provocative content, and foul language.
- 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute (about 8 years of content uploaded every day).
- Over 3 billion videos are viewed every day on YouTube.
- Users upload the equivalent of 240,000 full length films every week.