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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.

7-year-olds searching for porn? Say it ain't so!



Last week, Internet security firm Symantec released the Top 100 most popular kids' search terms for 2009, as logged by its OnlineFamily.Norton parental control software. The Top 3 search terms were the familiar web destinations YouTube, Google and Facebook. The Top 5 was then rounded-out by "Sex" and "Porn", confirming the need for installing parental controls in the first place.

Despite the presence of two sex-related terms at the top of the list, Symantec reported that kids spent most of their time searching for music topics (30%), followed by TV and movie subjects (12%).

The most popular celebrity searches were Michael Jackson, followed by Taylor Swift.  Other celebrities featured in the Top 100 included Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Megan Fox, Britney Spears, the Jonas Brothers and Rihanna.

Although the sweetspot for Online.Family Norton continues to be the 8 to 13 age group, the Top 100 search terms suggest there is considerable interest in topics more usually associated with older users. As well as Sex and Porn, the list included eBay, Wikipedia, Google Maps, Google Earth, Craigslist and Walmart.

For the first time, Symantec also broke down favorite search terms by gender. While Sex made it into the Top 5 on both the Boys and Girls charts, Porn fell all the way to #24 for Girls, bumped down the list by a slightly healthier diet of female pop sensations and male vampire actors!

Symantec also provided Top 25 lists by age group but here the data was less convincing. The three categories – Teen (13-18), Tween (8-12) and 7 & Under – all featured a combination of YouTube, Facebook and Google in the Top 3, although the Symantec press release didn't explain why 7-year-olds would be searching for Facebook.

Even more puzzling in the 7 & Under category was the re-appearance of Porn, this time at #4. Even eBay snuck into the 7 & Under list at #16, ahead of more obvious choices such as Disney Channel, Hannah Montana and Lego.

Although a Symantec spokesperson suggested that the very young might be influenced by their older siblings when experimenting with search terms, a more likely explanation is the failure of family members – including adults – to strictly log in and out under their own account names when using computers installed with the Online.Family Norton software. At least we hope that's the case. The prospect of 5 and 6-year-olds intentionally searching for Porn might make even the most progressive Internet advocates throw their hands up in despair!

Whatever the problems with analyzing the data, the overall picture is clear: tweens and teens are as inquisitive about sex today as they have always been. The big difference these days is that a click of a mouse can deliver a lot more than they bargained for.

Haven't installed parental controls yet? Now might be a good time!



Comments:
Comment by Robyn's Online World, posted 12/23/2009, 10:07 AM:

We use Norton's OnlineFamily as part of our parental controls. I love that I can see the search terms of my son if I want to. I just wish more parents would realize that kids are kids and don't assume your kid does nothing you don't want them to - talk to them, listen to them, teach them!
Comment by Brandy, posted 12/23/2009, 9:00 AM:

WOW, that is surprising. My children are 7, 3 and 1. The 3 and 7 year old use the computer with my monitoring to play online learning games. My family computer is in our living room which is easily seen by all, so for now they are safe without the additional software however as they get older I may so be needing something to block or track what they are doing, can't watch your teens every moves for sure!
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