Study: Minority parents more concerned about online safety issues

Joseph Diebold, Campus Editor

Although all parents worry about the safety of their children online, minority parents do so more than white parents, according to a new collaborative study between researchers at Northwestern and Microsoft Research.

The study, published in the journal Policy & Internet last month, found parents are most concerned about their children meeting harmful strangers online, followed by being exposed to pornographic content.

Parents of Asian and Hispanic descent were more concerned about all online safety issues. Black parents were more concerned about their children meeting harmful strangers or being exposed to pornography but not other potential safety issues, including being victims of cyberbullying.

“Policies that aim to protect children online talk about parents’ concerns, assuming parents are this one homogenous group,” said communication studies Prof. Eszter Hargittai, a co-author of the study, in a news release. “When you take a close look at demographic backgrounds of parents, concerns are not uniform across population groups.”

The researchers surveyed more than 1,000 parents of children ages 10 through 14 during summer 2011.

Microsoft researcher danah boyd, the study’s other co-author, said the study could have significant implications, noting that policies in development seem to be more friendly to white parents.

“Our study highlights how parental concern differs by demographic factors, notably race and ethnicity,” boyd said in the news release. “This raises significant questions about policies intended to empower parents. Which parents — and, in turn, which youth — are being empowered by the interventions being developed?”

— Joseph Diebold