I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Gavin Thompson, Microsoft Canada’s Director of Community Affairs. In addition to working on initiatives to help children and youth realize their potential through technology, working with community stakeholders to create initiatives that bridge the digital divide in Canada and empowering Microsoft Canada employees to be active volunteers in their communities – a large part of his role is to ensure that we do what we can to keep kids safe online. I asked Gavin to share his thoughts on how Canada is doing with respect to this issue and what we can all do to help out.

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"…G2G, POS!!"

I’ve been getting the feeling lately that kids don’t like me. I get a lot of dirty looks from them when I talk to their parents about research I have done and what we have learned their kids are up to. It may be the fact that part of my role at Microsoft Canada is to help parents and educators de-mystify what kids are doing when they are online and give them the resources they need to help keep them safe when doing so. We have heard the term that parents are "technical immigrants" of today’s society, while children are the "technical natives" and I was recently very surprised to see a growing gap in perception about what kids are actually doing on the internet and what their parents think they are up to. In late January, I worked with Ipsos-Reid on a research survey titled "Untangling the Web: The FACTS About Kids and the Internet", and we found that more teens have been exposed to "risky" situations online than parents believe:

  • 16% of teens report they have been in a chat room while someone was being bullied (versus 9% of parents who think their teen has encountered this situation).
  • One-third (34%) of teens say they have been asked for personal information such as their last name, address or phone number from someone online (versus 25% of parents who think their teen has encountered this situation).
  • While only 7% of parents of teens believe their child has shared personal information with someone online, more than double this proportion (16%) of teens report having done so.

Many teens have also encountered other ‘risky’ online situations:

  • More than one-half (52%) report having seen inappropriate content such as pornography, violent or hateful messages while online.
  • Four-in-five teens (79%) report receiving junk email spam and seeing online ads for gambling.
  • In addition, one-in-five (20%) report having been a victim of "phishing".
  • Perhaps one of the most disturbing findings of the study is that 10% of teens admit to having inappropriate communication with an adult while online.

We recently finished a cross-country tour that gave parents these facts and provided them with the tools they needed to keep their kids safe and Microsoft Canada employees continue to work in their communities giving presentations and seminars to parents and teachers to shed light on this issue. During these presentations, parents across Canada asked us "What software is available to keep them safe?" and "What controls can I put on my computer to keep them safe?" – but the biggest resource available was, simply put, them: The best way to help keep kids safe online, as a parent, is to talk to them and to get involved in their web activities. If you are a parent, or know one who has questions – check out www.bewebaware.ca it is a great resource for parents and builds their comfort level for interacting with their children about safe online experiences. Another great one is http://safety.sympatico.msn.ca/ which provides lots of tips and is a great all-around resource for parents. While the Internet is a rich and stimulating place for kids, like every other place – it is not without its hazards. We will continue to help give parents and educators the tools they need to keep kids safe when they are online. I hope you will join us to help spread the word and tell parents what their kids are up to when they are surfing the web.

If kids don’t like me right now for that reason – I can take it. Keep the dirty looks coming.

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Thank Gavin for taking the time to provide us this great information. If you are a parent, be sure to take a look at the links Gavin provides.

Barnaby

oh, for those of you that haven’t figured it out yet (or don’t have kids to help you):
…G2G, POS!! = …Got to Go, Parents over Shoulder!!