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Young people are at risk online, survey reveals

education Updated: Nov 12, 2014 12:41 IST
HT Education Correspondent

How many of you are online for most part of the day? How many of you post sensitive information on your Facebook timelines or your Twitter accounts? If you don’t think twice about putting up party pictures with your addresses or messaging your mobile number to someone you don’t know very well, be careful. There are all kinds of anti-social elements lurking out there ready to create trouble. McAfee, part of Intel Security, has released the findings of its annual study, the Tweens, Teens and Technology 2014 report, which examines the online behaviour and social networking habits of Indian tweens and teens.

Young people have, the report states, had some experience with cyberbullying (been cyberbullied online or witnessed others being cyberbullied), out of which one-third (36%) have been cyberbullied themselves. This behaviour was perceived to result in anger and embarrassment, showcasing how online behaviour translates into offline impact.

An eye-opening trend is that half (52%) of India’s youth even access their social media accounts while at school, with tweens (57%) being more connected during school hours than teens (47%). Even though the minimum age to register on social networking sites like Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tinder, Tumblr, and Vine is 13, 10 to 12 year-olds report higher daily access than their teen counterparts.

Depite a majority (80%) of Indian youth being aware that their online activity can affect their identity, 92% have done or posted something risky online. An added fact is that of these, 70% have posted their contact details like email, phone and home address. Youth are increasingly trusting unknown people in the virtual world, in spite of being aware that it is risky. About 53% have met someone in person that they first met online. Also, 63% of youth do not turn off their location or GPS services across apps, leaving their locations visible to strangers.

Another critical concern stemming from peer pressure is the youth feeling compelled to portray an untrue image of themselves online. About 64% even admit to trying to reinvent their online personas making themselves appear older, creating fake profiles or posting photos that are not their own. Moreover, 46% say they would put themselves in danger to see more engagement/ activity on their posts (more likes, comments, shares or retweets).

How can parents help?

Connect: Casually talk to your children about the risks of all online connections and make sure the communication lines are open
Gain access: Have passwords for your children’s social media accounts and passcodes to children’s devices to have full access at any given moment
Learn their technology: Stay one step ahead and take the time to research the various devices your kids use