The stranger danger scare easily applies to a random creepy person your kid might run into on the street. Most kids know better than to go near them.
But what happens when their friend—whom they’ve been opening up to for months, building a solid, trusting emotional relationship—wants to meet in real life?
How does a parent deal with classmates who’ve created a group on social media dedicated solely to humiliating, embarrassing, and spreading rumors about their child?
In the following text and infographic, you’ll learn all the most recent information on internet safety for kids, and the real scale of potential threats.
We collected information from reputable sources: comparative studies with over 100,000 participants, 2018’s Parental Control reports, government websites, Child Protective Services, and cybersecurity companies.
In addition, we examined all aspects of children’s online behavior, such as smartphone ownership rates, time spent online, time spent on social networks, and positive, as well as negative, online experiences.
We took notice of the demographics: data on kids’, tweens’, and teens’ age, gender, and country, including the US, China, Brazil, and Italy.
You’ll see detailed descriptions of kids’ exposure to the most common online threats like cyberbullying, scams, adult content, and online predators.
We also listed just how aware both kids and parents are of issues like online safety for kids, cyberbullying, and children’s overall online presence.
Do kids turn to their parents when they need help with online harassment?
Do parents talk to their kids about how to stay safe online?
Do they use parental control software?
To what degree?
We’ll conclude with some tips on staying safe on the internet, for both parents and their offspring.
We also included the tools and resources that can help you monitor and optimize your kids’ online behavior.
Our goal is to help them make the most of the internet, without falling victim to its many pitfalls.
Top Child Safety Statistics To Takeaway
- 70% of kids encounter sexual or violent content online while doing homework research
- 17% of tweens (age 8-12) received an online message with photos or words that made them feel uncomfortable, only 7% of parents were aware of this
- 65% of 8-14 year-olds have been involved in a cyberbullying incident
- 36% of girls and 31% of boys have been bullied online
- 16% of high school students have considered suicide because of cyberbullying
- 75% of children would share personal information online in exchange for goods and services
Sexting, Sextortion, and Trust: How Can We Keep Children Safe from Online Predators?
1. 1 out of 7 children have sent messages with sexual content, while 1 in 4 admits they’ve received these kinds of messages.
A 2018 study came to these worrying conclusions. In 39 studies (with 110 ,380 participants), kids aged 11 to 17 were surveyed. A sext can include language, photos, or videos featuring sexual content.
These kids’ unwitting decisions can ruin lives, and damage their self-esteem, even future career prospects. This is why they need to understand how to be safe on the internet.
Sometimes kids send pictures consentingly, but after a breakup or a disagreement, a friend or a boyfriend can post them online.
The aggressor’s motivation could be revenge, pettiness, jealousy, or even a minor disagreement. Once the explicit pics are on the web, users can download them, take screenshots, and forward them.
2. 20% of teenagers have sent or posted nude or semi-nude photos or videos of themselves.
According to Guard Child, 26% of teenagers don’t believe that the person to whom they sent the pics will forward them to someone else.
This trust is so complete that 15% of teens have sent or posted this objectionable content to someone they only knew online.
A number of online friends can turn out to be adults, adults posing as kids, classmates, or ex-partners who end up harboring a grudge.
3. 11% of young teen girls aged 13–16 have sent or posted nude or semi-nude photos or videos of themselves.
Kids as young as 13 are particularly vulnerable when it comes to outside influence.
This includes strangers who’ve built a relationship with them over time, as well as their peers and classmates. Kids seek approval, and this need sometimes outweighs common sense.
One of the main conversations you need to have with your kid, therefore, will start with the obvious question, “Why is internet safety important?” Explain the far-reaching consequences of their actions, and help them understand how to protect themselves.
4. The prevalence of forwarding a sext to others without consent is 12%, while only 8.4% of kids admitted someone forwarded a sext to them.
So much for trust, right?
It turns out that peers and even adults posing as peers can ask for explicit pictures of teenagers and then forward them to others without their consent.
If you care about how to keep your kids safe online and on their phones, you must consider this stat.
What’s worse, many kids don’t realize that this is illegal. According to the Department of Justice and Crime Prevention, “if a child aids, abets, induces, incites, instigates, instructs, commands, counsels, or procures another child to take and send such a photo of the latter to the first child or another person, he or she will be guilty of an offense.”
A conviction may lead to a hefty fine, but that’s not the worst part. In particularly nasty cases, a conviction might lead to imprisonment or even registration with the National Register for Sex Offenders.
Sometimes, cyber safety for kids includes making sure your kid is neither the victim nor the aggressor.
5. Suicide is the second most common cause of death in adolescents aged 15–19.
Kids are in more danger of killing themselves than of dying of any sort of disease.
The “deal with it” or “get over it” attitude can only take you so far. In fact, cyberbullying and harassment have conclusively been linked to depression.
Regardless of your attitude, the numbers show that internet safety for kids should be on every parent’s mind.
According to a 2018 paper by Young Minds, young people who use social media are most vulnerable to a low sense of well-being, as well as symptoms of anxiety and depression.
In 2012, 15-year-old Audrie Pott commit suicide after she had been sexually assaulted at a party eight days prior.
The boys who assaulted her posted nude pictures of her online, and accompanied them with bullying and cyberbullying.
Her death was one of the tragedies that started an avalanche, making people around the US face the real danger of cyberbullying and address how to keep kids safe online.
In 2016, a documentary titled Audrie and Daisy, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, detailing the experiences of Audrie Pott and Daisy Coleman, a girl with similar experiences who lived.
6. Only 25% of the children who’ve received a sexual solicitation told a parent.
According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, even though kids may place too much trust in peers and even strangers online, the same does not apply to parents. The fear of an overreaction, being blamed, or even something like having internet access taken away can stop kids from asking for help.
7. 20% of teens have met up with an online friend in person.
It’s important that your child knows how to stay safe on the internet.
However, what happens when online dangers become a problem offline?
Agreeing to meet a stranger can be a whole new level of dangerous.
A 2015 Pew Research Center report exploring friendship in the digital age conducted a survey involving kids aged 13 to 17. 57% of teens have met a new friend online.
Considering this, it’s no wonder that at least some of them feel comfortable extending that friendship to their offline lives. Making sure you know who your kids are interacting with is certainly among our internet safety tips for raising teens.
8. 1 in 4 stalking victims also reported some form of cyberstalking, often taking place via email (83%) or instant messaging (35%).
People might check social media profiles of their crushes or employees, jokingly referring to this as cyberstalking. But this couldn’t be further from the real danger. Today, the United States has cyberstalking and cyberharassment legislature.
Did you know that the pictures you share online can be traced to your location, even if you don’t tag it on Facebook?
Smartphone location services place a stamp that can be used by computer-savvy web users to find out where a kid is located. To prevent cyberstalking, consider using a VPN, a type of software that encrypts data traffic, making it difficult for others to access your data.
If you, your friends, your child, or your friend’s child are experiencing any of the types of bullying or cyberbullying we’ve discussed, you can get support by calling a suicide hotline number or the national suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255) or by using their chat option, available 24/7 across the US. Trained, experienced individuals will offer compassion, advice, and useful resources.
Depression, Cyberbullying, and Social Media Safety
9. 90% of teens who participate in social media have ignored the bullying they’ve witnessed.
Out of said 90%, a third have been victims of cyberbullying themselves. The grin and bear it attitude surrounding this phenomenon has led to many damaging consequences for kids and parents, even though cyberbullying can seem silly to a casual observer.
So what can be done when friends aren’t willing to help?
Keep in mind that young people aged 16–24 spend an average of 34.3 hours a week on the internet.
For teens, cyberbullying is a real problem. Their online presence is at least equally important as how they appear in real life.
It should come as no surprise, then, that kids who’ve experienced cyberbullying can develop serious conditions, including anxiety and depression.
Friendships are destroyed, and in some cases, leaked photos and videos can even cause long-term damage to a kid’s reputation as an adult.
10. 95% of schools already impose some kind of restriction on mobile phones during the school day.
Every school implements its own internet safety practices. Some merely install parental control onto the school’s Wi-Fi, while others forbid mobile phone use during school hours altogether.
Schools want to ensure that kids are safe from risks like cyberbullying, online grooming, and harmful content.
Grooming stands for “when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or trafficking.”
Internet safety for elementary students and middle and high schoolers is important because along with making students safer, it also leaves them more focused on class.
11. According to a 2018 survey, 58% of parents check which websites their teens visit, and look through their kids’ call records and messages.
While most parents resort to checking kids’ online behavior manually, 52% also use software as the best way to handle internet safety for kids, which restricts which websites the child can visit.
Age plays a big part here: 72% of parents of 13- to 14-year-olds look through their child’s cell phone, compared to 48% of parents of teens aged 15 to 17.
12. Only 25% of teens socialize with friends in person on a daily basis outside of school.
This stat highlights the significance of online communication more than any other. In their free time, kids choose to communicate online, which is why online representation is so important to them.
Learning how to keep kids safe online becomes vital when you see that this is their primary channel for seeking connection, affection, approval, and validation.
13. 16% of boy gamers (13–17) play in person with friends on a daily or near-daily basis, and an additional 35% do so weekly.
With gamer kids, the stats are even worse. Their self-esteem and happiness levels tend to be based on gaming skills.
Internet games for kids and adults alike can become a problem for particularly vulnerable teens.
That’s why ganking (a big group of players teaming up on one lone player) is sometimes categorized as a type of online bullying.
14. 88% of teens online believe people share too much information about themselves on social media.
Pics or it didn’t happen, right? According to a 2018 article by Net Nanny, 10 of the most dangerous teen chat sites—like Kik, Snapchat, Ask.fm, Whisper, and Blendr—can easily bypass parental controls. On Kik, kids can exchange messages parents can’t see, and it’s also very difficult to confirm the participants’ identities.
Snapchat allows users to determine when messages they send will self-destruct, leaving an illusion of anonymity. Screenshots take care of that, of course, proving once more that everything posted online stays online forever.
Among these teenage chatting sites, Ask.fm is so scary that the former UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, urged parents to ban the app.
There are no age restrictions, and groups are formed based on GPS location, a serious liability since potential predators can easily learn a kid’s location.
15. 18% of kids aged 1–7 have social media profiles.
This is another big reason to consider instituting some online safety rules. After all, the age limit for creating an account on Facebook and Instagram is 13.
SnapChat users aged under 13 are redirected to Snapkidz. The minimum age for the mobile phone messaging app WhatsApp is 16 years old.
There are a few ways that you can manage what your kids are doing online. First and foremost, a family password manager is a good idea.
You can make an account for your child on any platform they regularly visit and then enable restricted mode on all the devices they use.
All passwords will be known to you, and you’ll be able to keep them and yourself safe from potential breaches.
16. Around three-quarters of 12–15-year-olds are aware of online reporting functions, and 1 in 8 who go online have used one to report something that bothered them.
Bystander apathy seems to extend to the internet. For those unfamiliar, it’s a social and psychological phenomenon where people are less likely to help a victim when other individuals are present.
17. 17% of children aged 12–15 admitted to accidentally spending money online—almost double the percentage from 2017 (9%).
A 2018 OF.com report came up with these surprising results. Parents who don’t want to lose money obviously need to provide a sort of kids’ guide to the internet.
It’s a fast way to ensure that if a child blows through their money on trivialities, at least it’s on purpose. Provided that these kids weren’t lying about the accidental nature of their actions, it’s surprising that they seem to know less about the way online purchases work.
18. 45% of kids aged 3–4 use Youtube, 80% use it to watch cartoons, and 40% watch funny videos and pranks.
On the other hand, 70% of kids aged 5–7 use Youtube, and 4% have social media profiles. Here’s a good reason to set something up like Google safe search for kids (but more on that in the next stat).
If you leave your child alone with a mobile device and just let the videos go on shuffle, they can easily be exposed to many violent, frightening, and otherwise damaging videos and images.
Downloading a free adblock program would be a good way to solve this.
You should also provide reliable android virus protection or get virus protection for any iPhone device that your kid might use. After all, kids are more likely to unknowingly click on malware or phishing emails than you are.
19. About 8 in 10 parents of 3–15-year-olds online knew about at least 1 of the 6 content filtering tools they were surveyed about. And more than half of parents of 3–4-year-olds (56%) and 5–15-year-olds (59%) used at least one of them.
A website content filter is designed to reduce recreational internet use and restrict access to content that would be deemed objectionable by a parent, school, or enterprise.
A web filter blocks pages from websites that are likely to include objectionable advertising, malware, viruses, and pornographic content. While it’s good that so many parents know about these programs, their use could be even more widespread.
The best free internet filter you can use is Qustodio Free. It may be aimed at Windows, but it’s also available for Mac, Android, iOS, Kindle, and (weirdly) Nook.
Windows Live Family Safety and Open DNS FamilyShield are more family-oriented and will block domains on your whole home network.
If you want to generate only cherry-picked, safe results, Kiddle is probably the best kids’ search engine for you.
20. 19% of parents had no idea whether or not their kids had SnapChat accounts.
In addition, 22% of parents were aware that their children had a Twitter account.
Cyberbullying can become an issue on any social media website. Because of this, not knowing if your kid has a SnapChat account—or any social media account—can be a problem.
21. 59.68% of parental control notifications were triggered by children visiting online communication sites.
All the more reason why social media safety for teens is an issue you ought to take seriously. It seems like no stat was actually needed to let you know your kid spends all of their time on Instagram and SnapChat.
22. 22.4% of parental control notifications were triggered by children’s software, video, or audio consumption.
Images or videos featuring alcohol, tobacco, or narcotics triggered 6.32% of the parental control notifications. And kids’ computer games triggered 4.99% of parental control notifications.
10 Internet Safety Tips for Kids
- Don’t lie about your age.
- Avoid private forums and chat rooms that require an email address, home address, or phone number.
- Don’t ever give out your own or your family’s personal information.
- Create strong passwords and update them regularly.
- Don’t accept strangers’ friend requests, don’t add strangers, don’t chat with strangers, and never make emotional connections with them.
- Set the privacy settings on your media accounts, make sure your profile details are only visible to friends.
- Never share personal photographs or videos, and never engage in sexting. Everything that happens on the internet stays on the internet forever.
- Disable location services.
- Only purchase items from reputable websites.
- Most of all, block anybody who makes you feel uncomfortable. Report them to your parents, teachers, or even the authorities.
Get the best parental control app for your phone: these options include Qustodio, NetNanny, Symantec Norton Family Premier, Kaspersky Safe Kids, Circle with Disney, Clean Router, and Mobicop.
There are also computer monitoring and parental control software options. These include K9 Web Protection, Qustodio, Family Time, Windows Live Family Safety, Norton Online Family, NetNanny, and Kidlogger.
If you’re looking for Google parental controls, Family Link allows parents to set screen time limits, lock devices when it’s time for a break, approve or block apps downloaded from the Play Store, and locate their kids through their devices. Technically, it’s available to anyone with an existing Google account.
And finally, there is also an Android parental control option: When you turn on parental controls, you can restrict what content can be downloaded or purchased from Google Play based on maturity level.
For family members who manage their own accounts, parental controls only apply to the Android device you add them onto.
For family members whose accounts are managed with Family Link, you can set up parental controls on your child’s Google Account.
So how do you explain internet safety to a child?
Conversations between kids and parents need to include some ground rules: Don’t give away private information about either yourself or your family.
Do not send, download, or forward explicit photos, texts, or videos of either yourself or other kids. Report a bully to the page administrator, a parent, or an authority at your school.
And most of all, be open in your parent-child communication. In the long run, it’s better for you and your kids when they can trust you, not fear you, so that you can work together if something ever does go wrong online.
As we can see, internet safety for kids needs to be as major an issue for parents as what happens in their kids’ offline lives.
Put simply, the stats and tips we’ve provided here are designed to educate you and your kids, while helping you all communicate better about being safe online.
- PC Magazine
- The Sun
- The Department of Justice and Crime Prevention
- Rainbow Rehab
- Guard Child
- National Institute for Mental Health
- Pew Research Center
- Bureau of Justice Statistics
- The Guardian
- USA Kaspersky
- Wonder Share
- The Verge
- Google Play Help