Peers, Predators, and Porn: Predicting Parental Underestimation of Children's Risky Online Experiences


  • This research was supported in part by the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station federal formula funds, Project No. NYC-1317428 received from the National Institutes for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) U.S. Department of Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • Accepted by previous editor Maria Bakardjieva


Parents often underestimate the degree to which their children engage in risky online activities such as cyberbullying, worrisome interactions with strangers, and exposure to sexual content. This study attempts to identify the underlying predictors of such parental misconceptions. A national sample survey (nonrandom) of 456 matched parent–child pairs revealed that a permissive parenting style, difficulty communicating about online risks, and household environmental variables such as having access to a private computing space play a role in parental underestimation of risky social interactions that their children encounter and experience online. Implications for scholars and caregivers are discussed.