The Safest and Most Dangerous States for Kids Online

Kylie Mcquarrie

You might not think it to watch the news, but violent crime in America has decreased drastically in the last 25 years. While crime has generally trended downward, though, the types of crimes—and the targeted demographics—have shifted, creating dangers previous generations never grappled with.

For instance, in 1990, getting online meant sacrificing your phone connection to browse clunky websites. Now, thanks largely to smartphones, the internet is always a click away—especially for your kids, who spend time online at school and at home, connecting with friends and doing homework.

For better or worse, you can’t assess your child’s online safety based solely on their behavior. Online safety may also depend on where in the US you live. At Internet Service Partners, we’ve created a list of the ten safest—and ten most dangerous—states for kids online. Use our data to calculate your child’s risk for cyberbullying, predatory stalking, or threats to their mental health, and act accordingly.

US Map safe and dangerous states kids online

Methodology

How did we determine which states were the safest and most dangerous for kids online? We correlated these data points from each state and weighted them accordingly:

  • Malware infection rates (weight: 20)
  • Youth victims of internet crime (weight: 30)
  • Education rank (weight: 10)
  • Cyberbullying laws (weight: 30)
  • Youth mental illness (weight: 10)

From there, we calculated the average of the weighted data points per state. We then converted our weighted rankings on a scale from 1 to 50, which provided each state’s ranking relative to the country as a whole.

And if you want to know what we mean by “kids” in our data, we used the same definition as Diana Stelin, owner of The Plein-Air Art Academy, who considers kids to be between the ages of 4 to 14:

“I split things up for elementary school age school this way: 4-6 yr olds have similar mindsets with a focus on self as center of their universe. 7-9 yr olds are very attentive to detail and loving discussions. 10-14 yr olds are pre-teen, not as concerned with social circles and their phones. They’re willing to concentrate for long stretches of time.”

Safest States for Kids Online

In order, starting with the safest state, the ten best states for kids online include the following:

  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • North Dakota
  • Iowa
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island
  • Minnesota
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts

Why are half of the safest states for kids online in the Northeast with the rest in the Midwest? A recent US News report listed Maine as the safest state in the Union with Vermont in a close second, so it’s possible that states with lower property and violent crime also experience lower rates of online crimes like cyberbullying.

Most of the ten safest states also have tighter cyberbullying laws than other states in the Union. 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.

Most Dangerous States for Kids Online

The most dangerous states for kids, in order from the worst offender, include the following:

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Virginia
  • Texas
  • Indiana
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Maryland
  • Wisconsin
  • Oregon

In contrast to the safest states listed above, only two states here are in the Northeast or on the East Coast—most are in the South or West, and most have looser cyberbullying laws or less access to mental health resources than their Northeastern counterparts.

Arizona, in particular, has limited mental health resources. In 2015, the state was ranked 50th in the nation in terms of mental health care access—a huge problem for children when suicide is the second-most-common cause of death for children, tweens, and teens nationwide.

No Matter Where You Live, Protect Your Kids

If you’re raising a family in one of the more dangerous states for children, don’t panic —there are plenty of things you can do to protect your kids. Apart from lobbying for any legal changes you want to see, such as increasing cyberbullying laws or mental health resources in schools, you can implement the following steps at home:

  • Talk to your kids about their online behavior. Make sure your kids know that you’re always available to discuss anything troubling or confusing they found online, free of judgment.
  • Keep the family computer in a shared space. Keeping the desktop computer in the kitchen or only allowing tablet usage in the living room lets you keep a closer eye on your younger kids’ browsing.
  • Discuss privacy settings. Verify that kids know not to click on advertisements, make purchases, or disclose personal information without your permission and knowledge.
  • Take advantage of your internet service provider’s (ISP’s) resources. In particular, choose an internet service provider that offers PC protection and malware-deterring software.

If you live in one of the 20 states named above, do you have any thoughts about why your state is so safe (or so dangerous) for kids online? Do you have any tips to share with other parents about how you’ve protected your kids, or have you benefited from your ISP’s features, including antiviral software? Feel free to share in the comment section below!

Sources:
Malware infection rates: https://www.enigmasoftware.com/washington-new-hampshire-virginia-most-malware-infected-states-2017/
Victims of internet crime: https://pdf.ic3.gov/2016_IC3Report.pdf
Education rank: https://wallethub.com/edu/best-worst-states-underprivileged-children/5403/
Cyberbullying laws: https://cyberbullying.org/Bullying-and-Cyberbullying-Laws.pdf
Youth mental illness: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/issues/ranking-states

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