The Center for Cyber Safety and Education conducted a study of kids in grades 4 to 8 to better understand their internet usage behavior and the extent to which they engage in age inappropriate or dangerous behaviors online. Of kids surveyed, 40 percent of kids in grades 4 to 8 connected or chatted online with a stranger.

  • Of this 40 percent, 53 percent revealed their phone number to a stranger.
  • 11 percent met a stranger in their own home, the stranger’s home, a park, mall or restaurant.
  • 21 percent spoke by phone with a stranger.
  • 30 percent texted a stranger from their phone.
  • 6 percent revealed their home address to a stranger.
  • 15 percent tried to meet a stranger.

The study also focused on safe digital citizenship with 87 percent of kids in grades 4 to 8 reporting that they were taught to use the internet safety. When it came to breaking the rules laid down by their parents, many respondents reported regularly stepping outside the guidelines.

  • 29 percent use the internet in ways their parents wouldn’t approve.
  • 31 percent download music with adult words.
  • 21 percent watch adult programs online.
  • 62 percent went to adult websites after a search.
  • 31 percent lied about age to access adult websites.

Children in this age group also have a variety of access points to the internet — more than any other generation.

  • 70 percent have a cellphone.
  • 64 percent have a tablet.
  • 48 percent have a computer in their bedroom.

SOURCE: Beatriz Parres, Community Engagement Coordinator, Center for Cyber Safety and Education

According to a new survey by Microsoft, titled “How Old is Too Young?,” 94 percent of all parents allow their kids to use at least one online service or device. The survey also found that the average age at which parents allow children to use devices independently is eight years old.

Additionally, 29 percent of parents allow their children to use mobile phones unsupervised, while 40 percent allow their children to use a computer unsupervised. In total, 41 percent of parents allow their kids to use a gaming console unsupervised.

“It’s never too early—or too late—to talk to your kids about being safer, smarter, and more considerate online,” said Jacqueline Beauchere, Chief Online Safety Officer at Microsoft. “While kids may be savvier about how the devices work, parents can be instrumental in helping to shape how kids think about, engage with, and generally behave with technology both online and off.”

Below are tips for parents on how to start or continue the online safety conversation, with the goal to engage educate, enforce and evaluate the best rules for your family: Parents should help children choose apps that are appropriate for their age and maturity. It’s important to use and buy apps that are well-reviewed and from a reputable source.

Once kids start signing up for social networking sites, parents should help them make their profiles private and also ask them to think twice about who they accept as friends.

Finally, parents should talk to their children about promoting a positive image online and being respectful of others when posting comments. It’s important to come together and explore the games kids want to play and create family guidelines for their use.