It almost goes without saying that most kids are savvier than their parents when it comes to being online.  But, in a first-of-its-kind research survey conducted by the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), in collaboration with Hart Research Associates, new data suggests that parents may finally be gaining ground.   FOSI announced the results of the survey today at the National Press Club and I had the opportunity to participate on a panel with representatives from Microsoft, Google and Verizon to discuss the encouraging results and the lessons we can draw from them in our efforts to make sure parents have the knowledge and resources they need to help keep their kids safe online.

Sponsored by AT&T, Verizon, Google and Microsoft, the survey was conducted in July and involved more than 700 parents with kids between the ages of 8 and 17.  The survey addresses a wide variety of issues and I encourage you to read the results yourself to get the complete picture.  But a few are worth pointing out.  According to the survey, 86% of parents feel their child is “very” or “somewhat safe” online.  That statistic alone shows how far we’ve come from the day when the Internet was the “great unknown” that many parents feared.  As you’d expect, parents are still concerned about their kids’ safety online but overall most appear to be knowledgeable and feel empowered to do something about it.  In fact, according to the survey, 87% of parents say that they are aware of at least one type of parental control and more than 50% say they have used one.

The survey does show that there are areas where parents appear to be comparatively less knowledgeable, but they tend to be in the areas like smartphones, where the technology is still relatively new so it’s not unexpected.  However, the level of awareness of parental controls for these emerging technologies is still very encouraging and the other data from the survey tends to reinforce that this positive trend will continue.  And, importantly, AT&T along with the mobile industry is already doing things aimed at helping parents in this space, such as the CTIA mobile app ratings initiative announced early this year.  For parents who aren’t using parental controls or “tools,” 60% cite that it’s because they have their own limits in place.  Thus, we can’t forget that for many parents the “rules” are as important, or perhaps even more important, than the “tools.”  This illustrates another key lesson from the survey.  Not all parents are alike and, therefore, their methods for addressing their kids’ safety online will be very different as well.

Finally, the survey shows that children are increasingly accessing the Internet and utilizing technology in general through multiple platforms.  The PC is quickly being supplemented, or even supplanted, by smartphones, gaming devices, tablets and the like.  That’s why AT&T offers a variety of “Smart Controls” for parents to choose what works best for them no matter what the platform.  And that’s also why we support a variety of online safety organizations like FOSI to help make sure our customers – including parents, teachers, kids, and policymakers — are all getting the message.  The good news is that these efforts appear to be working, but it’s important to keep up the drumbeat so that parents can keep up with the rapidly-changing technology and their kids.

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