Child Online Safety: Where Does Your State Rank (and what can you do about it)?

It’s no surprise that as social media use and online gaming continue to skyrocket in popularity among teens and kids, so do cyberbullying and online crimes. CNN recently stated that teens are spending an average of nine hours a day using media and that children younger than nine are averaging two hours a day online.

This isn’t to suggest that the digital world is inevitably going to harm our youth, but rather to raise awareness about how prepared our states really are for the digital world that our youth are pioneering.

According to a recent report from Internet Service Partners, some states are certainly doing a better job than others. South Dakota ranked as the safest state for kids online, while Arizona fell in dead last due to consistently ranking low among all factors considered. The factors that the report considered were:

  • Malware infection rates

  • Youth victims of internet crime

  • Education rank

  • Cyberbullying laws

  • Youth mental illness

Some states that ranked highly in terms of having cyberbullying laws in place still ranked low for overall safety. The report says,“While every US state has an anti-bullying law, not every state includes cyberbullying and electronic harassment as part of that law. Similarly, not every state imposes criminal or school sanctions for students charged with cyberbullying or harassment.”

This could partially be due to the fact that while cyberbullying is a very real and growing problem, it’s not necessarily as common as the media has painted it out to be.

Common Sense Media reports that about 15.5% of high schoolers experience cyberbullying, while 20% experience in-person bullying. Some media have suggested that if your child is online, they will inevitably experience some form of bullying. But while being online does subject them to the possibility, it’s not necessarily going to happen to them.

Youth mental illness could be both a cause, and effect, of cyberbullying. Children with already-existing mental health issues could be more likely to engage in cyberbullying behavior, or also more likely to be victims of it. In turn, children could develop mental health issues if they are being cyberbullied.

The ten safest states ranked (in order) were:

  1. South Dakota

  2. Vermont

  3. North Dakota

  4. Iowa

  5. Connecticut

  6. Rhode Island

  7. Minnesota

  8. Kansas

  9. Maine

  10. Massachusetts

The ten most dangerous (in order) were:

  1. Arizona

  2. Colorado

  3. Virginia

  4. Texas

  5. Indiana

  6. Alabama

  7. Georgia

  8. Maryland

  9. Wisconsin

  10. Oregon

A state’s overall education ranking was considered as a factor in this report because part of a solid education in today’s world includes learning how to safely navigate the internet. It’s also becoming more popular to embrace e-learning in schools.

The majority of a child’s safety online starts within their home. Especially with summer around the corner and children spending more time at home, their online activities are likely going to increase.

Here are a few tips for parents to help their children stay safe online:

  • Walk through basic internet activities with your children to show them how to properly:

    •     Login to a social media platform

    •     Check email

    •     Google questions

  • Answer their internet questions, judgment-free

  • Keep tabs on their cellphone and online activity, but avoid being intrusive

  • Encourage iPad, computer, or cellphone use in shared family spaces

If parents treat a child’s “digital life” as an extension of their “real” one, rather than trying to combat it, they’ll most likely help their child learn how to safely use the internet.

Hilary Bird is a digital journalist who writes about the things that fascinate her the most: relationships, technology, and how they impact each other. As more and more people become more and more reliant on their tech devices, Hilary wants to help them stay safe and understand how these devices will reshape the way we communicate.