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FOSI Says Majority of Parents Use Online Safety Tools

The Family Online Safety Institute says that the majority of parents are already using tools to help protect their kids' online experiences.

That is according to a study from Hart Research commissioned by FOSI and funded by members Google, AT&T, Verizon and Microsoft. The association also includes Comcast, Time Warner Cable and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

Among the key findings of the survey, according to FOSI, are that 87% of parents are aware of the availability of at least one type of parental control -- defined as "a tool or program offered by a software company, Internet service provider, a wireless company, a search engine, or video game" -- and that over half (53%) have used one of them.

Of those who have not used the controls, 60% say that is because they don't think they are necessary because they have set their own rules and limits, including where computers can be used, limits on online time and time-of-day restrictions.

Not surprisingly, awareness by parents tended to skew younger (under 40), better educated (post-graduate degree) and those who already use social media.

The report comes as some in Congress and many in the Administration are both considering a larger role for government in at the least prodding and aiding, and at the most regulating and legislation, on the child online protection front.

Parents' indicated they are less sure about smart mobile device use, the wireless broadband device the FCC, and sales figures indicate, will be the surfing device of choice in the future. Only 32% of parents whose kids had smartphones said they were "very knowledgeable" about protecting their kids surfing, though another 23% said they were "fairly" knowledgeable.

"We're encouraged to see how many parents already have rules and tools in place to keep their kids safe online," said Stephen Balkam, CEO of FOSI, in announcing the study. "Of course, more needs to be done and we will continue to work with government, industry and non-profit groups to spread the word and encourage safe and responsible online use."    

Both sides of the debate on the relative roles of government and parents agree that education for parents and kids is key.

The survey was a phone poll of 702 parents of kids 8-17.