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The Internet is much safer than mothers and fathers think

Security firms need to stop stoking the fires of parental paranoia.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Parents are spending more time than ever taking care of their kids. According to the Economist, technology saving parents from the grind of household chores has freed up eight hours a week for the average couple since 1965, with all of that time plus extra shifted to childcare.

The trouble is that extra time is often used to worry, and it’s no surprise that the internet has become a favoured bogeyman, filled with paedophiles and pornography. What’s even less shocking is that firms are looking to make some money out of this trend.

McAfee’s decision to run an annual cyber bullying survey in Australia may be well intentioned, but it stokes the fears of many mother’s about what their tots are doing in cyber space. According to the research, 81% of 8-17 year olds witnessed cyber bullying in the last year, a 56% increase from the previous one.

This raises a few questions, for instance whether kids are more aware of what cyber bullying is because of the publicity it is receiving. A number of high profile suicides linked to social media has highlighted the issue in the last few years, with the obligatory panel of regulatory goons lining up to decry the evils of modern technology without taking a good look at the evidence.

One such figure untroubled by empirical concerns is that of "cybermum" Alex Merton-McCann of McAfee. What did bother her was the "heart pumping" stat that nearly half of youths had chatted to someone they didn’t know online, up from 19% from the previous year.

For a medium that exhorts you to interact, this figure seems suspiciously low. CBR contacted McAfee for a copy of the questionnaire, and it turned out interacting with strangers online was restricted to TV show fan pages, "live tweeting" celebrities during a live show, and video game chat.

What the firm’s "cybermum" appears not to understand is that stranger interaction is not some obscure part of the internet – it is inherent to all the best websites. Everyone who tweets, post a picture to Instagram or even a comment on YouTube has "chatted" to a stranger. And if you haven’t done any of those things, you are doing the internet wrong.

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