Kids are online younger and more often than even a year ago.
A new poll of teenagers and their parents in the city and surrounding suburbs found 96 percent of 8 to 12 year-olds have their own internet connected device, and a somewhat shocking 84 percent of children ages 3 to 7 have their own phone, tablet, computer or gaming system hooked up to the internet.
The poll of 1,500 parents and children was conducted in September and commissioned by AT&T and two foundations that try to combat bullying.
“That little phone, that little box that we hold in our hand is a great tool, but it can also be a weapon,” said Jane Clementi, CEO of the Tyler Clementi Foundation.
Half of the kids said they had been bullied online. Twenty percent of girls said they had sent sexually explicit photos. Nearly 60 percent of kids said they know how to hide what they're doing online from their parents.
"Kids like to bring each other down and talk about each other on the internet and break their personalities," said Azalia James, a student at Capital Prep Charter School.
One challenge is to help parents set up safeguards that kids can't circumvent. A free program providing guidance and technical support launched this week at all local AT&T branches. It’ll soon expand to the 24 YMCAs across the city. It helps adults install safeguards on devices children have access to.
"Unfortunately what children experience with tech is not the same as what parents understand or are hoping their kids are using for these devices," said Samira Nanda Sine, NY Director of Common Sense Media.
Prolific social media user and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has also issued a public service announcement about the new program.
"I'm pretty sure people will like it because I included my cat, so I know that racks-up likes," Johnson said.
In a related effort to reach the kids on a more granular level, students from Sienna College have been trained to run intensive two-day workshops for high school and middle school students. This week, they were at Capital Prep Charter School in Harlem, working with 25 student leaders who then ran an assembly for the rest of the school.
This spring, that program is going to expand, when students at Hunter College on the Upper East Side are trained to try to reach city teenagers before they do something dangerous, or hurtful, on their device.