While home computer use for fun, games
and emailing friends is common among youth, it also offers kids more
opportunity to engage in risky Internet activities such as downloading illegal
software and chatting with strangers, according to the results of a new
nationwide survey released by the Business Software Alliance
The online poll, commissioned by BSA and conducted by Harris
Interactive(R), measured the attitudes and behaviors of 1,556 U.S. youth, ages
8 to 18. The study documents kids’ computer and Internet use at home and
school as well as their assessments about adult supervision of those
More Online Risks Taken at the Home
More than half (51%) of the kids polled said their school’s computer usage
rules were more stringent than home rules. The findings suggest that less
rigid supervision at home increases kids’ freedom to surf inappropriate Web
sites, download digital copyrighted works such as software and music without
paying for it, and chat with strangers. Among the results:
* About half of older teens, ages 16 to 18, report having downloaded
software (52%) and music (52%) while on home computers this year,
compared to just over a third of younger teens, ages 13 to 15 (36 and 38
* 35 percent of kids surveyed in all age groups said they are more likely
to use a home computer rather than a school computer to chat with
someone they don’t know, divulge personal information online (24
percent) or go to Web sites they probably shouldn’t visit (29 percent).
“Visiting inappropriate sites, downloading software illegally, chatting
with strangers and other risky Web behaviors, rarely occurs at school.
Unfortunately, the greater risk for these behaviors is clearly in the home,”
said Diane Smiroldo, vice president of public affairs for BSA, the
organization representing the world’s leading software developers.
“We learned that schools are far more likely than parents to use blocking
software and enforce safe online use policies. So, what the kids cannot do at
school, they can more easily get away with at home due to less supervision.
This is why it’s so critical that teachers and parents take every opportunity
to get involved and be observant when it comes to kids spending time online.”
Parents Play Important Role in Improving Safety Online
One reason that school computer use is safer than at home is that, at
school, children are much more likely to be online with adult supervision,
according to the study findings. While it is rare that they are online alone
at school (just 15% say they are alone when on the Internet at school), they
are commonly online alone at home (62%) and more likely to experiment and take
“Many kids say that their parents have talked to them about what’s
appropriate online behavior and what’s not. Yet, despite these efforts, the
home computer seems to be the center of most risky behaviors among youth, and
that’s a serious problem,” said Smiroldo.
One positive note from the study indicates that parents may have more
ability to get their kids to listen than previously thought. “All age groups
say that their parents know as much as they do about the Internet and that
parents are more Internet savvy than teachers. This clearly indicates a real
opportunity for parents to get more involved and make more of a difference in
their kids’ online activities,” said Smiroldo.