New study finds disturbing online trends

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A new study has revealed some disturbing findings about what kids are exposed to on social media.

This comes as summer break is just starting, and extra time out of the classroom could mean extra time spent online.

The study, called “Teens & the Screen,” is from internet security company McAfee.

It’s biggest finding is that more kids are using technology to bully one another.

“We’re starting to see more and more leak outside of the virtual world into reality,” McAfee’s Chief Privacy Officer, Michelle Dennedy, said.

As if bullying weren’t an epidemic already, it now has a new avenue.

“About half of our kids are having physical altercations or arguments based on what they’re learning and having conflicts online,” Dennedy said.

While much of what kids do online is harmless, the study found that 87 percent of kids have witnessed cyberbullying, three times more than in 2013; 26 percent are victims.

Dennedy, a mom herself, says kids using social media, like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to bully one another is the study’s most shocking finding.

“It becomes like a mini paparazzi,” she said.

Most bullying is over looks, followed by race, religion and sexual orientation, according to the study.

Another issue is the amount of private information kids share.

The study found that 30 percent of kids give out their phone number online; 14 percent give their home address.

Parents can’t supervise around the clock, but they can make sure what their kids do online is safe.

“We monitor everything on her internet on her phone, we monitor everything, my husband and I,” Indianapolis mom Vickie Brown said.

Her daughter Tyranny, soon to be a 6th grader, has web access, she said, but with conditions.

“We have blockers on her phone, and then if texts come through, we can see what the texts are,” Brown said. “I have access to all of her emails. It comes directly to my phone if she gets an email.”

It’s this involvement, Dennedy says, that may not be popular with kids, but is key to their safety.

“Start young, have this conversation when your kids still are talking to you, when they’re 10 and under, for example, so that they’re growing up knowing what your rules are in the house,” Dennedy said.

Top 5 recommendations for parents:

  • Connect with your kids. Talk to them about online risks; make sure communication lines are open.
  • Gain access. Parents should have passwords for their children’s social media accounts and full access to their kid’s devices.
  • Learn their technology. Research the devices your kids use; know more about their devices than they do.
  • Get social. Know about the latest social networks; understand how they work and if your kids use them.
  • Reputation management. Make sure kids know anything they post does not have an expiration date.
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