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Cyber survey: Kids in harm’s way
By Michele E. Cutri-Bynoe, correspondent
Daily Messenger
Rochester New York
Fri Jun 13, 2008, 09:40 AM EDT
http://www.mpnnow.com/news/x822799461/Cyber-survey-Kids-in-harm-s-way

Canandaigua, N.Y. -

A recent survey of Canandaigua students found that children as young  
as kindergarten surf the Internet, with some exposed to material they  
said made them uncomfortable.

Among other findings: Cyber bullying — sending threatening or  
demeaning messages — starts as early as second grade and peaks in  
middle school.

Canandaigua was one of 14 districts that took part in and helped pay  
for the far-reaching survey of children’s online experiences.  
Rochester Institute of Technology researchers surveyed some 40,000  
students and hundreds of teachers as part of the Rochester Regional  
Cyber Safety and Ethics Initiative. A full report on all school  
results will be released in July, said Samuel McQuade, graduate  
program coordinator at RIT’s Center for Multidisciplinary Studies.

“There’s never been a study like this,” he said. “It’s the largest and  
most comprehensive study of its kind.”

McQuade said people often hear of predators using the Internet to lure  
children into meetings, but he and his colleagues wanted to learn the  
full scope of children’s behavior online.

“We’ve suspected for a long time, there was much more going on,” he  
said.

The goal is to get a handle on what children are doing online and  
offer tools so children can be taught to keep their information and  
themselves safe, McQuade said.

The Canandaigua school board got a sample of its raw numbers late last  
month and is awaiting the analysis of all district results, as well as  
information on cyber education resources.

Teachers and students were surveyed last fall. Of the 3,988 students  
enrolled in the fall of 2007 in the Canandaigua School District, 3,176  
students participated, though not all the students answered all of the  
questions. Researchers grouped their results by age. Here are some of  
the findings.

Primary

The survey results showed that, even in kindergarten and first grade,  
kids have access to home computers. More than half of these children  
use them to surf the Internet.

A total of 129 of the 244 kindergartners and first-graders reported  
seeing things on the Internet that made them uncomfortable.

In second and third grades, 255 of 263 children joined the online  
gaming craze. Kids reported being exposed to sexual Internet  
communications as early as the second grade. Thirty-one out of 262  
second- and third-graders were asked online to describe private things  
about their bodies. Twenty-three children reported being exposed to  
private things about someone else’s body. Cyber bullying was  
experienced by 47 kids — some were bullied by their own friends.  
Thirteen kids admitted to bullying.

For the most part, these younger kids were protected by their lack of  
reading and writing skills, which limited their ability to understand  
written content or to participate in chat rooms. Although children of  
any age can fall prey to online abuse, the survey showed that the  
potential increased as they become more proficient with their language  
skills and acquired Internet communication skills.

Elementary

The survey showed, crimes such as illegal pirating of music, movies  
and software, began for many in the fourth grade.

Although risky behavior was low for 587 kids in fourth, fifth and  
sixth grades, a significant number were and still could be victimized  
by having posted personal information on the Internet. Personal  
interests were posted online by 81 out of 585 who answered the  
question, physical activities were posted by 58 out of 583, real names  
were used by 93, and 146 kids out of 587 said they lied about their  
age online.

Fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders were also asked whether they had  
been victimized in any way online. Of the approximately 580 children  
who responded:

• 58 said someone used their password without their knowledge.
• 46 said their computers, cell phones, game consoles or other  
electronic equipment had been stolen.
• 41 had been embarrassed online.
• 29 had been threatened or bullied.
• 14 were exposed to nude pictures or private things about someone  
else’s body.
• 8 were asked private things about their bodies.
• 5 were asked for nude pictures of themselves.

Middle and high school

 From the middle school to the Academy, kids experienced all forms of  
online abuse either as victims or perpetrators.

Although cyber bullying is known to continue beyond high school, the  
survey showed that it peaked during middle school. Cyber bullying and  
abuse were more common with seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders.

About 870 students in seventh through ninth grades were asked if they  
had done something they shouldn’t have online. The results were as  
follows:

• 61 said they bypassed security controls designed to keep them off  
certain Web sites.
• 35 embarrassed someone online.
• 43 threatened or harassed someone.
• 35 requested nude photos.
• 96 pretended to be someone else.
• 262 lied about their age.
• 43 admitted to online plagiarism.

As for the victims in this age group:
• 126 had someone impersonate them online.
• 117 reported being bullied.

Many of the victims knew the perpetrator. Some 268 reported that they  
had been victimized by friends.

In grades 10 through 12, fewer kids engaged in cyber bullying, but 380  
kids out of 844 did engage in some form of online abuse. For example  
97 admitted bypassing security measures, 451 said they downloaded  
music illegally and 225 said they downloaded movies illegally.

Being harassed and/or stalked online was reported by 113 kids out of  
707 in this age group. Unwanted pornography was reported by 141 kids  
out of 709 who answered this question.

Of 520 students questioned about chatting online with strangers, 260  
said they had done so.

Staff

Four in five staff members agreed that student use of electronic  
devices for nonacademic purposes posed a significant problem.

According to the survey, many staff members had no idea what  
protection school administrators had in place to prevent school  
computers from being abused and to keep kids safe online. One out of  
every six staff members felt they couldn’t supervise student use of  
school computers properly.

Though the study included any online activity, whether at home, school  
or elsewhere, spokesman Andy Thomas said material on district  
computers is filtered.

  “The district has a powerful filter system, run through BOCES, that  
is excellent at preventing inappropriate sites from being accessed,  
including the Facebook types,” he said in a written statement.

“All student computer usage is monitored in classes and labs,” Thomas  
wrote. “Student access is password protected. All students and staff  
sign appropriate Internet usage protocol document(s). District Web  
site does not post identifiable student photos with names attached,  
etc.”

More information on the survey is available at the Rochester Regional  
Cyber Safety and Ethics Initiative Web site: www.rrcsei.org.

Contact Michele E. Cutri-Bynoe at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 256, or at [log in to unmask] 
.