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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Bullying is now parents’ biggest fear

When it comes to child safety, it appears that many parents are starting to fear the Facebook friend more than the stranger lurking outside the school gates.

A recent survey of parents by the babysitter and nanny provider, Care.com, found that bullying has become the #1 fear of parents when it comes to the safety of their child, bigger even than the fear of abduction or kidnapping.

Nearly one in three parents of children aged 12-17 cited bullying as a more serious concern than other dangers, including domestic terrorism, car accidents, and suicide. For parents of children under 12, more than one in four (27%) say they are most afraid of bullying or cyberbullying, with kidnapping only slightly higher (30%).

The recent widespread publicity given to cases of cyberbullying has much to do with the change in attitude. The Care.com survey found that almost two out of three parents believe that technology, including cell phones, social networking sites, and video games have resulted in meaner behavior among kids. As a result, three-quarters of all parents now say they monitor their children’s text messages and social media activity.

Parents clearly believe that they can’t tackle this problem on their own. More than one in three parents report encouraging their children’s schools to create anti-bullying programs and have teachers address the problem. Although nearly half (46%) feel that their schools are paying attention to the bullying problem, one out of five parents say their schools are doing a poor job or are simply failing their kids when it comes to this issue.

“Mean kids and bullies are not new, but the access to social media networks and cell phones that can make bullying both anonymous and seemingly innocuous is the new danger,” said Wendy Sachs, editor-in-chief of Care.com. “And parents are genuinely afraid. Our study found that parents are stepping up and want their schools and communities involved.”

Some experts have taken issue with the claim that technology is to blame. “I don’t think it's the technology that's making our children meaner, it's the cultural shifts in our society,” said Dr. Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. “We're more tolerant of verbal and physical violence. Being a jerk is more acceptable than in previous decades.”

However, Dr. Hinduja also recognizes that parents can’t afford to ignore technology and the Internet. “Parents have been heavily involved in off-line life with their children,” he said. “But parents need to be equally involved in their online life. In many ways the kids' online life is the more important part of their lives these days.”

What’s your biggest fear when it comes to child safety? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

Comment by Ty, posted 10/22/2010, 1:50 PM:

One of my closest friends is dealing with this issue. A malicious Facebook fan page was made to tease her son. It was made by a class mate. The school says because it was not made on school property, their hands are tied. The parents are doing nothing. The law wants her to label her child (depressed) in order for them to get involved. It got so bad she pulled him out of school, only one in the district. We all feel so helpless.
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