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Parents aware of only half of cyberbullying incidents, research finds

Consumer study findings were released from research commissioned by SocialShield ( ), the leading online monitoring service for kids’ social networking activities. The research studies, conducted by comScore and NDP, revealed that less than 8% of parents are aware of cyberbullying incidents involving their own child, despite the fact that other data – including the well-known 2011 Pew Research study – shows that as many as twice that number of children claim to be the victims of cyberbullying. The surveys polled more than 4,000 parents collectively.

“Unfortunately, the monitoring techniques that most parents think are good enough to help keep their kids safe, are often not good enough,” said George Garrick, SocialShield’s CEO. “There is simply too much content being created by our kids and their peers – not to mention predators – for parents to keep track of with out help. We expect this situation to only intensify in 2012 as more social networks develop and more kids get involved.”

The Pew Research Center report found that as many as 15% of teenagers have had “online meanness” directed at them over a 12-month period. Similarly, a survey by the Cyberbullying Research Center, found that 20% of children claim to have been victimized by cyberbullying.

Why Parents Never Know
Parents are often perplexed by why they don’t know about such a large percentage of cyberbullying incidents–because today’s kids are conducting social networking activities in a number of different locations, using a wide variety of devices, and across a broad range of media platforms. And while most parents think their kids will tell them about cyberbullying, behavior indicates they don’t for the following reasons: they’re embarrassed about the situation, they’re afraid of backlash from the bully or others, they fear losing access to their computer, they’re worried they did something wrong.

Although 52% of the parents SocialShield surveyed report that their child accesses social networks from the family computer–where the parent could theoretically watch over their child’s shoulder–42% of parents also report that their child accesses social networks on his or her own computer, while 25% do so from their cell phones. 8% of children access social networks from a tablet or handheld device, another 8% from a friends’ computer, and 5% from a school computer.

“Friending Your Kids on Facebook Not Enough”
According to the SocialShield study, although 36% of parents report that they “friend” their child in order to track his or her social networking activity, making it one of the most common monitoring techniques. But behavior shows that a large percentage of activities take place via private chat messages, groups, closed forums, personal SMS texts and other forms of communication that cannot be viewed by any parent no matter how diligent. It is no coincidence that 24% of cyberbullying incidents occurred on cell phones, and 10 percent on chat applications – according to the research.

Steve DeWarns, a San Francisco Bay Area police officer and the chief safety officer of SocialShield, said “Protecting your kids from harm – whether they’re out in the real world or on social networks–is the most important job a parent has. All parents have the best of intentions, but most don’t understand how and where their kid could fall prey to cyberbullying or other dangers. When parents sign up for SocialShield, we scan postings, comments and photos from every one of their child’s friends on every major social network in order to help keep their kids safe.”

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