The Internet Now Seen as #1 Media Concern for Parents

When it comes to kids and their media, parents feel completely conflicted.

Parents say they worry about what's on TV, yet 2/3 of their kids have sets in their rooms. Parents worry about age-inappropriate content, yet almost no one uses the V-Chip and few use content filters.

This polarity now extends to the Internet, a conclusion that jumped out at us from a new national study we just conducted here at Common Sense Media about parents' attitudes toward their kids' online lives.

To parents, the Internet is a double-edged sword: On the one hand, 74% of parents feel that the Internet offers their kids aged 11-16 the greatest opportunity to learn and grow.

Yet, 85% feel the Internet poses the greatest risk. Only 13% cited television.

(So much for Janet Jackson and the Super Bowl! How quickly things change in the world of kids and media.)

While the results reflect the heart of the dilemma facing parents all across the country, we were astonished by the depth of feeling -- something evidenced by the profound percentages reflected in the poll numbers. These weren't on the fence positions. When it comes to the media in general and the Internet in particular, parents feel deeply and passionately divided.

Parents' conflicted feelings extend to their children. Nine out of 10 feel that it's essential that their children know how to use the Internet by themselves. While 95% trust their children for information about what they're doing on the Internet, 88% of parents still admit that knowing where their kids are online is more important than respecting their kids' privacy.

These results remind me of the deep ambivalence that parents feel when they first hand the car keys over to their kids. They want their kids to be independent. But they also know that driving can be dangerous and it's easy to take a wrong turn and end up in undesirable locations. But just as we teach our kids the fundamentals of safe driving, parents know that it's up to us to teach kids the fundamentals of safe Internet use.

Here's what parents didn't feel conflicted about at all: A stunning majority said it was their responsibility to keep their kids safe.

The poll confirms that parents understand that the burden of keeping kids safe and smart has shifted to them. In fact, 82% said that there was "no excuse for not knowing enough to protect your kids."

The overwhelming majority -- 98% -- said they trusted their own instincts and intuition when it came to information about the Internet.

They felt that they were the go-to people to keep their kids safe even though two-thirds of parents felt they had less influence over their kids' online behavior than their kids' friends.

At Common Sense, we have launched the Internet Safe and Smart campaign to give parents management tools and advice. After all, The Internet is here to stay. And we are here to help your kids make the most of it. We urge everyone to spend a moment and look at the site. We must remember that keeping our kids Internet Safe and Smart is up to us.