Posted by Jacqueline Beauchere
Director, Trustworthy Computing Communications, Microsoft

Just more than half of U.S. parents say they’ve used family safety software to limit or monitor their child’s Internet use, according to a new study. Parents not using such features, meanwhile, say they have their own household rules in place, or they trust their children to act appropriately when going online.

The Family Online Safety Institute, a global, non-profit organization focused on making the Internet a safer place for children and families, released its first-ever report entitled “Parents’ Views of Online Safety.” The U.S.-wide study, sponsored by Microsoft and other FOSI partners Google, Verizon and AT&T, was released Wednesday during a special presentation in Washington, D.C. focused on online parental controls.

Not surprisingly, the new survey found that parents express concern about their children’s various online activities, in particular:

  • Receiving sexually explicit information or photos.
  • Communicating with strangers.
  • Visiting sites that display inappropriate content.
  • Providing too much personal information.

Overall, 86 percent of parents said they feel their kids are “very safe” (42 percent) or “somewhat safe” (44 percent) when online; 13 percent characterized the experience as “very” or “somewhat” unsafe.

When it comes to protecting kids online, parents said they feel most knowledgeable when their child is using a computer, and least informed when the online gadget of choice is a smartphone or other handheld device. Indeed, study findings indicate that 48 percent of parents say their children use two or more technologies to get online; nearly a quarter (24 percent) say their children use three or more devices. These may include a personal computer, laptop, netbook, tablet, game console or smartphone.

In Microsoft’s ongoing effort to create a “culture of safety” and promote good, global “digital citizenship,” we seek to raise awareness among and inform youth, parents, teachers, government officials and law enforcement personnel about how best to stay safe online. We make a vast number of resources available at our Safety & Security Center, including brochures, factsheets, tip cards, videos and articles. We partner with groups like FOSI, iKeepSafe, the National Cyber Security Alliance and others to get the word out about online safety, and we develop and deploy features and functionality in our own products and services to help people navigate the Web safely.

Indeed, family safety settings can be found in many Microsoft products, including Windows Live, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Xbox 360 and Xbox Live and Zune. These features help parents and caregivers manage the websites children visit, allow media usage based on age and rating, monitor the time kids spend online and who they can talk to, as well as be on guard for behavior like cyberbullying. Compare the free features at: aka.ms/compare-tools.

The FOSI study offers proof that safety features can be effective. Eighty-two percent of parents think current technology makes it “easy” to monitor the websites their children visit and the people they interact with online. Sixty-three percent experience that same ease of use with similar functionality in smartphones and handheld devices. The result: “rules” and “tools” are combining to help parents and children more safely explore our ever-expanding digital world.