A recent Nationwide study by researchers at VPNPro has revealed that high school age youngsters (grades 9 to 12) are the Utahns most vulnerable to being influenced by social media and susceptible to cyber-attack (Image courtesy of Anna Spratt on Unsplash).
SALT LAKE CITY – Another nationwide study has confirmed Gov. Spencer Cox’s concerns about Utah children having an Internet-footprint that makes them vulnerable to both social media influences and cyber-attacks.
That’s the conclusion of recent research by the cyber-security website VPNPro, whose experts analyzed Internet connectivity patterns across all all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
Those researches found that Utah has the second highest rate of Internet connectivity in the nation, with nearly 95.5 percent of all residents having access to one or more Internet-connected computing devices.
But Utah’s childen are even more connected than that state average. VPNPro found that Utah high school students in grades 9 to 12 are the state’s most connected population segment, with 97.63 percent of them having access to some gadget through which they can access the Internet.
That makes them one of the nation’s groups most exposed to cyber-security risks, the experts said.
“In 15 states (including Utah), toddlers and young children are also incredibly connected to the online world,” according to Šarūnas Karbauskas, a tech-writer at VPNPro.
“This raise serious cyber-security concerns, such as predators being able to use the device’s built-in mic and camera or offering unsafe apps access to its photo library, location and contact lists.”
The VPNPro study was based on the latest findings of the American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, which covered the year 2022 as well as population data.
The study focused on participants that stated that they had at least one computing device –either a laptop, a mobile phone, a tablet, etc. – with a paid-for Internet connection (e.g. fiber optic, a digital subscription line/loop, cellular data line or other service, whether separate or part of a bundle).
Overall, the VPNPro researchers fund that the national average Internet footprint covered about 93 percent of all Americans.
New Hampshire was the state of the union most vulnerable to cyber-attack with 95.55 percent of its population regularly online. Utah and Washington followed closely behind, with 95.42 percent and 95.34 percent respectively.
Also in New Hampshire, the age of children most vulnerable to social media influences and cyber-attack drops significantly. In the “Live Free or Die” State, nearly all (98.45 percent) of children enrolled in grades 5 to 8 have unlimited access to Internet-connected computing devices.
Here in Utah, Cox is leading the fight to hold social media companies accountable for the mental health harm they inflict on the state’s youngsters.
Following the 2023 general session of the Legislature, Cox enacted two legislative proposals into law. Senate Bill 152 requires that social media companies verify the age of users, with minors needing parental consent. House Bill 311 prohibits social media companies from using a design or feature that causes a minor to become addicted to their platforms and makes it easier for Utahns to sue social media companies for damages.
The state of Utah has also filed lawsuits against social media giants TikTok and Meta (the parent company of Facebook and Instagram) for damages. As a result of a countersuit by Meta, those laws are now under scrutiny by members of the 2024 Legislature.
“Beside activating parental controls,” Karbauskas advises, “we (at VPNPro) strongly encourage locking specific apps, installing a child-safe browser and using content filters on YouTube, Google Chrome and other tools.
“Automatically limited the time young children spend online can also prevent the use of a device during hours where an adult may be unable to supervise any unsafe activity,” he adds.
VPNPro is a consumer-focused cyber-security website specializing in software reviews, comparisons, guides and other online safety information.
For addition information, please go online to https://vpnpro.com.
Wanda Parisien is a computing expert who navigates the vast landscape of hardware and software. With a focus on computer technology, software development, and industry trends, Wanda delivers informative content, tutorials, and analyses to keep readers updated on the latest in the world of computing.