The vast majority of parents do not know what their children do when they surf the Internet, according to a poll by the Israel Internet Association. The poll's findings were revealed at a meeting Sunday of the Knesset Children's Rights Committee, which is discussing Internet use among children over the summer vacation.
The poll states that parents of children who surf the Internet daily often do not know what sites they visit. Some 90% of children in Israel age 12-14 use social networking sites like Facebook (only 67% of Israelis over 18 use social networking sites, the poll showed). Sixty three percent surf the Internet on desktop computers, while 20.4% use laptop computers and 13.4% use mobile phones.
With that, the majority of parents whose children surf the Internet at home on desktop computers have not installed filtering software to ensure that their children do not visit sites that include content they would prefer to restrict. Only one third of parents use such systems, while a quarter of parents said that they used programs that sent data to them on the sites their children were visiting.
Most worrying, said MKs at the meeting, was that the poll showed that 30% of children age 16 and under said that they had met online “friends” that they did not know offline – and 9% said they had actually met that individual in person. Of those, 12% said that they had been molested or harassed in some way by the individual.
Commenting on the poll, MK Ya'akov Margi (Shas), vice-chairman of the Committee, said that “the Internet has turned into a major playground for our children. We must take steps to warn them and their parents of the dangers of the virtual world.” Such an effort, he said, should be undertaken by local authorities, community centers, and schools, stressing that the true responsibility for protecting children online lay with parents.