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: www.pewinternet.org.

-- 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.

Tony Romando, Sync's editor in chief, said it's probably the ultimate revenge of the nerds. In a recent survey of 1,000 women for the magazine, 52 percent "are more turned on by guys who can fix a computer than they were by men who can open a stuck jar [or] fix a flat tire," he said.

Blame it on how women view and use technology.

According to the survey, women have been smitten by the galore of gadgets too. Sixty percent said the gadget they would love to receive from their husband or boyfriend is an iPod digital music player. Seventy percent said the gadget they most wanted -- but were unwilling to spend the money on -- is a flat screen TV.

And much like guys, digital gals need a hand every now and then.

For example, a vast majority (87 percent) of those surveyed know how to fix a jammed printer. But only 35 percent know how to use every function on their cell phone. And only 11 percent say they will read the manual before trying to operate any new gadget.

"So many women use gadgets and computers these days that when they get in a pinch -- just like a guy -- they need someone to call," says Romando. And "with the spread of viruses on computers and with all the spam, women are really looking toward men who are geeks."

Still, there are limits. Only 48 percent of women said that geeks are "sexy." And there are some things that even today's high-tech women won't stand for at all.

Only 13 percent of women would ever buy a shoe that contained a microchip. "Women don't mix shoes and tech -- some things are sacred," replied one woman. "Only a guy would think this is cool."

-- Karen Chase, ABC News

Cybershake is produced for ABC News Radio by Andrea J. Smith.