Director of National Drug Control Policy, John P. Walters, recently released a startling data compilation indicating the extent to which Internet sites -- particularly those that post user-generated content -- can spread misinformation and facilitate dangerous behaviors among teens, tweens, and younger children. These behaviors can include drug and alcohol use, self-mutilation, extreme violence, and anorexia and other eating disorders. While many parents are becoming aware of the risks of online pedophiles and other sexual predators, the majority of parents are unaware of the nature and extent to which their children are exposed to or engaging in dangerous behaviors online.
"Parents read news stories about Internet pedophiles, and they understandably worry about their children being exposed to online pornography. But they may not be aware how pervasive this content is, and how young the children are who are being exposed to this for the first time. And research shows parents aren't worrying about drug, alcohol, and other dangerous content online and how it impacts their child's behavior," said Director Walters. "Teens, tweens, and even younger children, are barraged by risky material on the Internet. Parents need to get online and see for themselves what their child has access to. It's time for them to upgrade their parenting skills."
ONDCP's data snapshot of teen online exposure shows that:
-- Nearly one in 20 teens online viewed drug-related videos during a one- month period; 35 percent were under age 16 (Nielsen Online Custom Study);
-- Almost 40 percent of drug-related videos contain explicit use of drugs and/or intoxication (Nielsen Online Custom Study);
-- Even the youngest kids have access to dangerous online content. Over 8.9 million (8,934,000) two to eleven year olds viewed video online in August (Nielsen Online, VideoCensus);
-- The average age of first Internet exposure to pornography is 11 years old. Eighty percent of 15- to 17-year-olds have been exposed to hardcore porn multiple times (Internet-Filter-Review.com);
-- More than one in eight teens say someone has spread a rumor about them online. Nine percent of teens who use social networking sites say someone has posted an embarrassing picture of them online without their permission ("Cyberbullying and Online Teens." Pew Internet &American Life Project: Data Memo);
-- Nearly a third of students say their parents would disapprove if they knew what they were really doing on the Internet (i-SAFE Survey);
-- Drug use and underage drinking don't make parents' top 10 list of concerns of their kids' online computer use (State of Internet Security: Protecting Children Online." Webroot Software).
Today's tech-savvy teens are targets for those promoting substance abuse and other risky behaviors by posting pictures to their social-networking pages or uploading video on sites like YouTube.com. The Web and image-sharing technologies available on cell phones have exponentially expanded teens' abilities to see and engage in dangerous behaviors.