New Research Finds Benefits Outweigh Harms in Kids’ Tech Use

November 11, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. Nov. 12, 2014 – A major new study from the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) found that the majority of parents (53%) believe there is more potential benefit than potential harm when it comes to their children’s use of technology, though many are ambivalent (42%).

The report, “Parenting in the Digital Age: How Parents Weigh the Potential Benefits and Harms of Their Children’s Technology Use,” explores the issues kids face online through the lens of parents and caregivers, and examines the findings in the contexts of age, education and ethnicity. Overall, findings show that the more confident parents are in their ability to manage their child’s technology use, the more likely they are to perceive that the benefits of kids’ technology use outweigh the harms.

“This report captures the keen awareness among parents of the promise of technology in their children’s lives,” says Stephen Balkam, Founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute. “But it also points to an unmet need for information, tips, guidance and practical help on how to raise kids in our digital world.”

Additionally, as one of the most comprehensive surveys of Hispanic parents’ attitudes concerning online safety, the study indicates that Hispanic children are highly engaged with technology (69% of Hispanic parents say their child has three or more devices that connect to the Internet, compared to 55% of white parents who say that about their child. Spanish-dominant Hispanic parents are also more likely than English-dominant Hispanic parents or white parents to see potential harms outweighing the potential benefits of kids’ tech use.

Other key findings from the report include the following:

• 3% of parents think their child is safe when he or she is online, including 37% who feel they are very safe. Only 7% think their child is unsafe.

•64% of parents feel very or fairly confident in their ability to keep track of their child’s technology use, but that varies notably between parents of teens (58%) and those whose children age six to nine (73%).

•The majority of parents (53%) are positive about the impact of schools collecting data on their child’s academic performance and behavior.

The study was released at the eighth Annual Conference of the Family Online Safety Institute. Conference speakers this year will include FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny, with panel topics covering student data privacy, graphic content, mobile apps, the Internet of things, sexting and more. (Follow the conference on Twitter: #fosi2014)

In response to the express need of parents for information and guidance on their children’s technology use, FOSI also used the conference platform to launch “Good Digital Parenting,” a new initiative that seeks to empower parents to confidently navigate the online world with their kids. As part of the program, FOSI is releasing a comprehensive set of resources including instructional videos, blogs featuring expert commentary and a practical toolkit of downloadable materials to support those on a digital parenting journey with children of all ages.

The research study was conducted by Hart Research Associates and sponsored by FOSI with the support of Google, Microsoft, CTIA – The Wireless Association and Cable Impacts Foundation. It included three focus groups and a nationwide online survey conducted in September and October 2014 among a 584 parents, and an oversample of an additional 323 Hispanic parents.