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How worried are parents about kids' online safety?

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MONDAY, Dec. 2, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Parents' concern about their children's online safety might vary according to their race, ethnicity and other factors, a new study suggests.

Researchers analyzed data from a 2011 online survey of more than 1,000 parents across the United States who were asked how worried they were about five potential online dangers faced by their children.

The parents rated their levels of concern on a scale of one (not concerned) to five (extremely concerned). The parents' biggest concerns were: their children meeting someone who means to do harm (4.3 level of concern), being exposed to pornographic content (4.2), being exposed to violent content (3.7), being a victim of online bullying (3.5) and bullying another child online (2.4).

White parents were the least concerned about all online safety issues, the researchers found. Asian and Hispanic parents were more likely to be concerned about all online safety issues. Black parents were more concerned than white parents about their children meeting harmful strangers or being exposed to pornography.

"Policies that aim to protect children online talk about parents' concerns, assuming parents are this one [uniform] group," study co-author Eszter Hargittai, a professor in the department of communication studies at Northwestern University, said in a university news release. "When you take a close look at demographic backgrounds of parents, concerns are not uniform across population groups."

The study, published recently in the journal Policy & Internet, also found that urban parents tended to be more concerned about online threats to their children than suburban or rural parents. In addition, college-educated parents had lower levels of fear than those with less education.

Among the other findings:

- Having a higher income was related to lower fears about children's exposure to pornography, being bullied or being a bully.

- Parents with liberal political views were less concerned than moderates or conservatives about pornography. Liberal parents, however, were more concerned about their child becoming a bully.

- Parents of daughters and of younger children were more concerned than parents of sons about the threat of their children meeting a stranger or being exposed to violent content.

- Parents' gender or religious beliefs have little effect on their levels of concern.

More information

The FBI offers parents a guide to Internet safety.

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