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Parents unaware of kids' online interactions, study finds

Wednesday - 8/22/2012, 5:48am  ET

Nathan Hager, wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- "It's 10 o'clock. Do you know where your children are?"

Thanks to the Internet, that familiar question from old TV public service announcements is even more dated.

The threats of cyberbullying, online predators and oversharing on social networks have made keeping an eye on kids a 24/7 operation for parents.

A new Teen Internet Behavior Study by cybersecurity firm McAfee may reveal a disconnect between what kids are up to online, and what their parents know about it.

Among the study's findings:

  • Almost one in four teens has claimed to be a victim of cyberbullying, and two in three have witnessed cyberbullying.
  • Only one in 10 parents is aware of their teens being targeted by cyberbullies.
  • Twenty-two percent of teens have admitted using their cell phones or computers to cheat on a test.
  • Only 5 percent of parents think their kids would cheat using their phones.
  • Twenty-nine percent of parents feel so overwhelmed by the complexity of the Internet, they give up on getting involved in their kids' Internet use.
  • Three in four parents think having just one conversation with their kids about Internet safety is enough.

McAfee recommends that parents have an ongoing conversation with kids about their safety online, starting well before they reach their teen years.

"As the kids get older, and as they prove their responsibility, you start to ease up on the level of control, just like you do every other aspect of parenting," says Michelle Dennedy, chief privacy officer at McAfee.

Controls may include limiting the types of websites kids may view, enabling location tracking on their smartphones and setting rules on how much information kids can share on social networks, Dennedy says.

"This is a wakeup call for parents," she says. "Don't let there be a digital divide. It's in your hands."

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)