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article imageApps for online safety are counterproductive

By Tim Sandle     Apr 6, 2018 in Internet
In what initially appears to be a surprising study outcome, researchers have concluded that apps designed to keep children safe online may be counterproductive.
According to University of Central Florida researchers, mobile apps marketed as tools to help parents keep their children safe from online predators could be counterproductive. This is because of two reasons. First, these apps can harm the trust between a parent and their child. Second, such apps reduce the child's ability to respond to online threats.
There are, of course, risks for children online and these risks arise when foremost when Internet use is unsupervised. In the U.S., for instance, the agency Crimes Against Children Research Center has reported that 23 percent of young people have experienced accidental exposure to online pornography. Moreover, a further 11 percent have been subject to online harassment and 9 percent have been subject to sexual solicitations online.
Despite these risks, are apps designed to protect the child and alert the parent the best solution? Not necessarily, according to the researchers. The sociologists looked at the types of parents who veer towards using parental-control apps on their teen’s mobile smartphone. Here they assessed if the apps actually helped keep teens safe online and they also questioned teenagers as to their views of their parents in terms of the apps being enforced. The study involved 215 parent-and-teen pairs, drawn from the U.S. population.
The social scientists discovered that authoritarian parents (those less responsive to the idea of their teen's seeking autonomy) were the most likely to use the parental control apps. However, the use of these apps was actually associated with teenagers experiencing more, rather than fewer, online risks. This highlighted an ineffectivity with many apps.
With the second part of the study, the scientists researched how teens and younger children felt about parental-control apps. This indicated that 79 percent of youngsters thought the apps were overly restrictive, and an invasion of their personal privacy. Moreover, they were often critical of their parents, many going as far to see the use of apps as a sign of lazy or bad parenting. The general assessment was such apps negatively impacted on communication between teenagers and their parents.
More about child protection, Apps, Safety, Online safety, Online
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