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Use of the Internet by parents of middle school students: Internet rules, risky behaviours and online concerns

Authors


E. B. Dowdell, College of Nursing, Villanova University, 800 Lancaster Avenue, Villanova, PA 19085, USA, E-mail: elizabeth.dowdell@villanova.edu

Abstract

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  • • Parents and children use the Internet differently with the majority of parents reporting that they have rules at home for Internet use and routinely check the computer histories so they can know where online their child has been.
  • • Both parents and children are reporting that they are participating in risky online behaviours such as talking to strangers and using the Internet to harass someone intentionally.
  • • Parents are concerned about the child's exposure to sexually explicit materials and online strangers, but the majority of parents do not know where to report negative or unsafe Internet experiences.

Abstract

Using the Internet is a daily occurrence for parents and children in today's world. Although they use the Internet differently, many individuals may face online hazards that they may be ill equipped to deal with. To better understand Internet use and online behaviours, a study was conducted with 227 parents of early adolescent (ages 11 to 14 years) middle school students (grades 6, 7 and 8). Four important findings emerged: (1) parents are using the Internet like their children but have different online behaviours; (2) parents have Internet use rules at home; (3) parents are participating in risky Internet behaviours (electronic aggression, intentional online harassment and communication with online strangers); and (4) parents are concerned about their child's online safety, specifically about the exposure to sexually explicit materials and online strangers, but the majority of parents do not know where to report negative or unsafe Internet experiences. Nurses, clinicians, healthcare providers and other professionals can and do provide comprehensive care to families by identifying needs and areas of knowledge deficit. By asking Internet use questions, nurses and other professionals are able to develop plans of care for all family members that will promote Internet safety and healthy lifestyle choices.

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