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Education for the Net Generation - 2. Survey of Children and Parents Concerning Internet Use: A Japan-U.S. Comparison (2)

Japanese Chinese

3. Parental monitoring of children's online access

Everyday in the US, parents are to be seen dropping off their children at school. If they were to let their children walk alone to school, or allow them to play outside, beyond reach of the 'parental eye,' they could be punished for child neglect. On the contrary, Japanese children are rarely accompanied by a parent when they go to school. Instead, a crime prevention buzzer can be seen hanging on their school bag. They walk alone looking lonesome and insecure after getting off from the school bus. Sometimes they are seen standing alone in an alley waiting for other children to join them to go to school. Such is the cultural difference in parent-child relationships in Japan and the US. Remarkably, these differences are also reflected in the results of a survey of children and parents from both these countries, relating to the use of the Internet.

Figure 6 shows the divergence of responses from children and parents in Japan and the U.S. in the way they monitor their children's online activities. Fewer Japanese children felt their parents monitored them while they used the Internet. Likewise, fewer Japanese parents reported monitoring children's online activities compared to those in the U.S. This fact may be attributed to the gap in the current culture and circumstances in Japan and the U.S. Continuous monitoring of children is considered a parental duty in the U.S. while public safety in Japan is considered to be of such a standard that such continuous monitoring of children is unnecessary.

Looking at Figure 6, the percentage of American children who answered that their parents monitor them while engaged in online activities was 12.4% less than the percentage of parents who actually did so. The percentage difference between Japanese children and their parents was 6.4%. Although parents are likely to assume that children notice their monitoring, the fact is that most children are rarely aware of parental monitoring. Generally, children are indifferent to what their parents think they might be doing, as we often say "a child never notices how deeply his parents care." Monitoring children does not mean 'watching over' them as if they were criminals or restricting their freedom. This act stems from "nagomi", caring about other people that has been one of the virtues of Japanese tradition and culture. Therefore, keeping this in mind, Japanese parents should increasingly be encouraged to watch their children's online activities, thinking they were caring about, not monitoring them.


Figure 6: Comparison of Japan ? U.S. on Monitoring Online Activities

As goes the well-known saying "A picture is worth a thousand words," it is important to keep watch on children's activity on the Internet, rather than guessing or worrying. However, parents' interest should be more than cursory. It is important to access the internet history that is stored on your children's computer. By doing this you can participate in their interest and share information with children. If a child is often accessing a website relating to the subject of space, then parents will know their child is now interested in space. Thus, parents can share in this interest. Sometimes, children may happen, in the course of study of natural environment etc., to access the website showing corpses at the foot of Mt. Fuji, a notable suicidal spot. Or inadvertently access an adult website which the filtering system could not identify. In these cases, parents should investigate how their child came to reach such a website rather than immediately prohibiting access. It is important to talk to children giving them enough explanation why they should not access such websites so that they can understand. Accessing the history of online activity on the child's computer is a key tool to conduct family education and to teach appropriate online behaviors.

Looking at Figure 7, there is no significant difference in awareness between parents and children both in Japan and the U.S. More than 40% of parents in the U.S. responded that they checked or accessed their child's online history; similarly the same percentage of US children reported that their parents checked their online activity. Conversely, only 10% of Japanese parents and children answered 'yes' to this question. Discrepancies in responses between parents and children in Japan and the U.S. are minimal, but this fact of less monitoring carried out by Japanese parents may explain why, as shown in Figure 4 "Invitation from strangers" and Figure 5 "Receiving a sexually explicit email or pop-up advertisement," fewer Japanese parents noticed their children receiving such material online despite the fact that children in Japan are exposed more to the invitations from strangers and sexual advertisements than US children are. It is clear that many Japanese parents do not access the history of their children's online activities; therefore, they are not aware that when their children are online they are at risk.

The divergence of PC competence between Japanese and American parents shown below may be one of the reasons for the marked difference between the levels of accessing and checking their children's online history.


Figure 7: Comparison of Japan ? US on Checking Online History

4. PC literacy

Figure 8 and Figure 9 show the comparison of PC literacy in Japan and the U.S. In Figure 8 relating to the PC literacy of parents, only 6.1 percent of American parents said they are beginners in the use of a PC. In comparison 38.9 percent of Japanese parents admitted they were beginners. Moreover, 50.5 percent of American parents responded that they are skilled users including advanced- and power-user levels, while only 11.2 percent of Japanese parents gave a positive response to this question.

Similarly, in Figure 9 relating to the PC literacy of children, only 6 percent of American children said they were beginners, in comparison to 66.8 percent of Japanese children who admitted that they were beginners. 45.5 percent of American children responded they are skilled users including advanced- and power-user levels, while only 5.6 percent of Japanese children said yes.

As a result of these responses, I thought that the higher rate of parents who are beginners on the PC in Japan may explain the lower rate of access to the online history of their children's activities, compared to parents in the U.S. To prove this hypothesis, I have conducted the chi-square test, a statistical hypothesis test, to check the relationship between the access check rate and the PC literacy. As a result, the access check rate × the PC literacy of parents is x2(3)=14.16 (p<.01), and the access check rate × the PC literacy of children is x2(3)=8.85 (p<.05), therefore, there is a definite relationship between the parental access to check on-line activity and the level of PC literacy.
Looking at Figure 10 relating to the relationship between the access check rate and the PC literacy of parents, because people who check children's history are their parents, there is a relationship. However, the outcome is opposite of my hypothesis. What the chi-square test has proved is that more parents who are beginners on the PC check the children's online history in comparison to those who are PC literate. Parents with the lower PC literacy demonstrate more concern about their children's online activities and therefore access the child's online history more regularly.


Figure 8: Comparison of Japan ? US on PC Literacy of Parents


Figure 9: PC Literacy of Children


Figure 10: Access History Check and the PC Literacy of Parents
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