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Open Access Research article

Internet safety education for youth: stakeholder perspectives

Megan A Moreno14*, Katie G Egan2, Kaitlyn Bare1, Henry N Young3 and Elizabeth D Cox1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA

2 School of Nursing, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA

3 School of Pharmacy, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA

4 Seattle Childrens Research Institute, University of Washington, M/S CW8-6 PO Box 5371, Seattle, WA 98145-5005, USA

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:543  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-543

Published: 5 June 2013

Abstract

Background

Internet use is nearly ubiquitous among US youth; risks to internet use include cyberbullying, privacy violations and unwanted solicitation. Internet safety education may prevent these negative consequences; however, it is unclear at what age this education should begin and what group is responsible for teaching this topic.

Methods

Surveys were distributed to key stakeholders in youth safety education including public school teachers, clinicians, parents and adolescents. Surveys assessed age at which internet safety education should begin, as well as experiences teaching and learning internet safety. Surveys of adults assessed willingness to teach internet safety. Finally, participants were asked to identify a group whose primary responsibility it should be to teach internet safety.

Results

A total of 356 participants completed the survey (93.4% response rate), including 77 teachers, 111 clinicians, 72 parents and 96 adolescents. Stakeholders felt the optimal mean age to begin teaching internet safety was 7.2 years (SD = 2.5), range 2-15. Internet safety was regularly taught by some teachers (20.8%), few clinicians (2.6%) and many parents (40.3%). The majority of teachers, clinicians and parents were willing to teach internet safety, but all groups surveyed identified parents as having primary responsibility for teaching this topic.

Conclusions

Findings suggest agreement among key stakeholders for teaching internet safety at a young age, and for identifying parents as primary teachers of this topic. Clinicians have a unique opportunity to support parents by providing resources, guidance and support.

Keywords:
Internet safety; Online safety; Parent education; Patient education; Survey research; Pediatrics