Survey Finds Americans Still Clueless About Online Security

By Tracey E. Schelmetic June 15, 2011

To paraphrase an old saying, “You can lead a computer user to knowledge, but you can't make him think.”

According to a new survey of U.S. Internet users commissioned by computer security company GFI Software, a frightening number of Americans are still utterly clueless when it comes to protecting themselves online.

And it's not just the teenagers, like you might expect.

The survey, which polled 1,070 adults and their teenage children, found that more than half of the parents whose home computers have been infected with a virus report that it has happened “more than once.” And while 89 percent of parents reported having antivirus software on their computers, one quarter of them didn't know if that software had been updated to protect them against the latest risks, reported the Associated Press.

Teenagers, of course, were also largely clueless. Twenty-four percent of teenagers who responded to the survey admitted they had visited a Web site meant for adults (adults-only Web sites are a notorious source of viruses and malware), and more than half of those teenagers admitted to lying about their age to gain access.

“Given the potential ramifications of improper Internet use today, it would seem to merit at least the same degree of educational vigilance as other lifestyle risk categories like sex, drugs and alcohol,” recommended the report.

The survey also found some other eye-opening stats:

Eleven percent of teens said they have been bullied online or by text messages. More girls reported being bullied than boys.

  • Seventy-six percent of parents and 77 percent of teenagers said they are “very confident” or “somewhat confident” that their computers won't be infected by a virus, which is in direct conflict with reality: 65 percent of parents said their home computers actually have been infected.
  • More than half of the households said both the parent and the teen had a Facebook account. Of these, 87 percent were “friends” with one another on the site.
  • Eight-three percent of teenagers with Facebook accounts indicated that they understand how to use privacy settings so they may hide content from their parents.

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Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TechZone360. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

TechZone360 Contributor

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