Survey: More Parents Turn to Online Filters

In this week's Cybershake, we take a look at the latest survey regarding the struggle parents face in trying to protect their kids online. Plus, we note that there may be good news for nerds: Geek is chic.

The Problems With Protecting Kids Online

Protecting minors from inappropriate material on the Internet is a parental task that still has no easy solutions. But, "parents themselves are becoming a little more savvy," says Amanda Lenhart, a research specialist at the Pew Internet and American Life Project in Washington, D.C.

According to the results of the nonprofit polling organization's latest survey, an increasing number of parents are using so-called Internet filters -- software programs that block access to Web sites of questionable content.

"Fifty-four percent of American families have filters installed on their home computers," she says. By Pew's reckoning, that translates into roughly 12 million households.

By contrast, only 41 percent -- or 7 million Net-connected homes -- used filters in December 2000, says Lenhart. "Filtering is up 65 percent over the past four years."

But technology isn't the only arrow in parents' quivers. Results from the Pew survey show that U.S. households are trying to follow the advice of online safety advocates. Specifically:

73 percent of respondents say the family PC is located in a public place inside the home, making it more difficult for teens to conduct illicit online behavior.

64 percent of those surveyed say there are set rules governing time online.

Still, not all the news is good. The survey finds, for example, that there is a certain amount of disconnect between parents and their teens.

Sixty-two percent of parents surveyed report checking up on their child's Web habits after he or she has gone online. But only a third of the teens in the survey say they believe their parents are monitoring their online activities.

Miscommunications aside, one thing both adults and kids agree on: Teens are engaging in risky online behavior.

Eighty-one percent of parents and 79 percent of teens say that teens aren't careful enough when giving out their personal information online. And a near identical number of adults and kids -- 65 percent and 64 percent, respectively -- believe that teens do things online that they wouldn't want their parents to know about.

And there are consequences for such actions. About 3 million teens, or 13 percent of youth ages 12 to 17 years old, do not use the Internet. Nearly 10 percent of those kids report being offline because they had "bad experiences," faced parental restrictions or no longer felt safe online.

Results for the survey were gathered from telephone interviews of 1,100 teens and their parents conducted last October and November. The survey's margin of error is plus or minus 3.3 percent.

A complete copy of the survey report, Protecting Teens Online, can be found on the Pew organization's Web site:

-- Andrea Smith, ABC News

Revenge of the Nerds?

Brawn or brains? What do women today really want in a guy? In the digital age, it is the geeks that are hot while the jocks are not. At least that's what Sync magazine, a men's digital lifestyle journal published by Ziff-Davis, suggests.

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