This being National Cyber Security Awareness Month, we might ask how secure young people are feeling online. According to two just-released studies, not so much. But there’s some light in there, so stay with me.
A Microsoft survey of 13-17 year-olds in 14 countries found that 43% had experienced unwelcome contact at some point. The study also surveyed adults and found that 58% of young people said they’d met their offenders in person compared to 43% of adults. [That maps to other research finding that young people generally know their online harassers in real life, which is simply because their online experiences revolve around school life.] The young people in this international study were especially concerned about online contact involving sexual harassment and extortion, with 44% saying either they or their friends or relatives had experienced such unwanted contact.
Young US users’ concerns
That offensive online behavior – such as harassment, bullying and unwanted sexting – is just as concerning to 13-17 year-olds in the U.S., a just-released study from the National Cyber Security Alliance found. But they’re more confident about negative content encountered online and on phones – violence and hate speech – than online behavior. More than two-thirds – 69% – said that, “if directed to online content containing extreme violence or hateful views that made them feel uncomfortable,” they’re very or somewhat confident that they could handle it (48% were very confident).
Among young people’s concerns, NCSA reported 47% “very concerned” about someone “accessing their account without permission;” 43% about “sharing personal information about them online”; 38% about “having a photo or video shared that they wanted to keep private”; and 32% about “receiving unwanted communications that makes them uncomfortable.”
NCSA also surveyed parents, reporting that both youth and adults said preventing identity theft is the number one topic they’d like to learn more about. Second on the list is a real call for digital literacy: “keeping my devices secure.” And No. 3 is a clear call for more media literacy instruction: “how to identify fake emails, social posts and texts.”