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Online safety research

Online safety research

To help ensure our online safety and privacy guidance is relevant and timely, we continually research the latest trends for various issues. We commission primary research as well as review findings from other organizations' studies. While some of our surveys are conducted in the U.S. only, we also commission some surveys in multiple countries.

The results of our research provide compelling information that can help parents, educators, and others to be safer online.

On this page:

Safer Online Facebook poll: Mobile phone manners and safety habits (May 2013, Worldwide)

From loud talkers, to people who answer their mobile phone while you’re in mid-sentence, the Microsoft Safer Online Facebook poll revealed what people find most maddening about how others use (or misuse) their phones.

The top five pet peeves were related to interruptions and distractions:

  • Constant phone checking (44% of the respondents included this in their top five)

  • Loud talkers (41%)

  • Using or not silencing the phone when appropriate (40%)

  • Using the phone during face-to-face conversations (39%)

  • Mobile phone users delaying traffic (35%)

Social Circles to Social Outcasts: Mobile Manners & Madness

The poll also showed that 39% of respondents believe men and women are equally safe in using their mobile phones.

In reality, this is not the case. According to the Microsoft Computing Safety Index released earlier this year, most men do a better job using technical tools to protect their information and mobile devices:

  • Thirty five percent (35%) use a PIN or password to lock their mobile device vs. 33% of women,

  • Thirty five percent (35%) use secured wireless networks compared to 32% of women,

  • And, 32% of men keep they mobile device up-to-date vs. 24% of women.

Women on the other hand, are more socially savvy online. Especially when it comes to protecting their online reputation.

  • Forty percent (40%) take steps to limit personal information online vs. 37% of men,

  • Forty percent (40%) limit what strangers can see on social networking sites vs. 32% of men,

  • And, 34% are selective about what they text (comments, images and general information) compared to 31% of men.

The Mobile Manners & Mayhem poll also examined the phone habits that could impact people’s online safety.

Mobile Manners & Mayhem poll results chart

  • At every age, men and women were equally likely to lose their phones (but those 40 and older were much less likely to lose them).

  • Pocket dialing increased until age 40: 37% of those 13 through 18 versus 60% of those 25 to 39.

  • Sharing one’s location appeared to be an activity for younger respondents, with those age 25 to 39 the most active. More women shared their location than men (59% to 54%), but men who shared did so more often than women.

For more information, view:

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DPD Online Privacy Survey 2013: Adults 18 or Older (November 2012, United States)

According to the results of a Microsoft-commissioned survey for Data Privacy Day (DPD), people feel they have little to no control over how their data may be collected by online companies. They are also increasingly in search of trusted sources of information to help them make better choices about their online privacy.

  • Forty five percent said they feel they have little or no control over the personal information companies gather about them while they are browsing the Web or using online services, such as photo-sharing, travel or gaming

  • Forty percent said they feel they "mostly" or "totally understand" how to protect their online privacy

  • An equal number of people (39%) said they are turning to friends and family, as well as privacy statements, as their top source for privacy information

  • Almost a third of those surveyed (32%) said they always consider a company’s privacy reputation, track records, and policies when choosing which websites to visit or services to use

Online Privacy Chart

For more information, download:

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Accessibility as a Business Consideration: IT Managers of Large and Medium-Sized Organizations (November 2012; United States, UK, and Germany)

According to this survey, organizations consider accessibility an important factor in their strategic considerations. However, organizations surveyed also cited lack of resources as the main reason accessibility doesn’t play an even bigger role.

  • Sixty-three percent of IT managers surveyed consider accessibility an important factor in their organization’s strategic considerations

  • Ninety-three percent of IT managers surveyed reported that accessibility should play an even more important role in their organization

  • IT managers reported lack of resources (43%) as the biggest reason accessibility doesn’t play as big a role in their organization’s considerations as they’d like

For more information, download:

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NCSAM Online Scams Survey: Adults 18 or Older (September 2012, United States)

According to a new Microsoft survey for National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM), the top five most commonly encountered online scams are the following:

  • Lottery or “Congratulations, you’ve won!” scams that promise free things or coupons (44%)

  • Fake antivirus alert scams that imitate real programs (40%)

  • Phishing scams using fake email that looks official and encourages people to click it (39%)

  • Advance fee fraud that features a request for bank account information from someone (such as a “foreign prince”) who needs to transfer money (39%)

  • Work-from-home scams that promise to “help you start your own business” (38%)

Respondents report having encountered roughly eight different scams on average. While most (62%) feel they're unlikely to fall victim to an online scam, only 12% report feeling fully protected. So there is still concern about some of the newer, trickier socially engineered threats that are happening on social networks.

What do adults fear most when it comes to online deception?

  • Impersonation scams such as fake antivirus alerts (40%)

  • Phishing scams (39%)

  • Work-from-home scams (32%)

Online Scams Chart

Download the Executive Summary or PowerPoint presentation for more information.

  • NCSAM 2012 Online Scam Survey Executive Summary PDF

  • NCSAM 2012 Online Scam Survey Presentation PPT

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Online Bullying Among Youth 8-17 Worldwide (February 2012, 25 Countries/Regions)

To understand the issue of bullying from a global perspective, Microsoft commissioned a survey to examine a range of online behaviors among youth – from “meanness” (least severe) to online bullying or cruelty (most severe), and everything in between.

  • Fifty-four percent of children age eight to seventeen in twenty-five countries* express concern that they will be bullied online.

  • Four in ten say someone was mean to them online.

  • Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) admit to having bullied someone else online at one time or another.

Online Bullying Chart

*Youth surveyed in: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Morocco, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Turkey, UAE, UK, and U.S.

Download the Executive Summary or PowerPoint presentation for more information.

  • Online Bullying Among Youth 8-17 Worldwide - Executive Summary PDF

  • Online Bullying Among Youth 8-17 Worldwide - PowerPoint presentation PPT

Learn how you can stand up to online bullying by taking this quiz.

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AARP/Microsoft Study: Connecting Generations (February 2012, United States)

In late 2011, Microsoft and AARP conducted research to learn about awareness and perceptions of safety and communications related to the use of online technologies and devices. The survey group spanned the generations, including American teens, young adults, parents, and older adults.

Some of the key findings and associated education materials include:

  1. More and more, people across generations are connecting with one another online.
    • Eighty-three percent of those surveyed consider going online to be a "helpful" form of communication for family members of all ages.
  2. For some, online communication translates into a "better understanding" of one another.
    • Three in 10 grandparents (30 percent) and teens/young adults (29 percent) agree that connecting online has helped them "better understand" the other.
  3. There is a generational divide, though, when it comes to online safety.
    • While most respondents in all groups—teens, parents, and grandparents—wished they knew more about how to keep personal information private (58 percent) and how to safeguard their devices (50 percent), the younger generation wants more information than the older generation about using social networks more safely (38 percent of teens/young adults and 27 percent of adults ages 39-75).
    • Nearly half (49 percent) of parents say that their teen knows to come to them if he/she sees something online that makes him/her uncomfortable. Yet, less than a third (29 percent) of the teens say they would know to go to their parents if they saw something online that made them uncomfortable.

Learn more about our collaborative Connecting Generations research:

Connecting Generations Infographic

DPD research graph

Click to enlarge

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Online Reputation Management: Parents and Children 8-17 (November 2011, United States, Canada, Germany, Ireland, and Spain)

Less than half of people surveyed consider the impact of their online activities on their reputation and the reputations of others. As a result, many adults and children may be risking damage to their reputations.

  • Only 44 percent of adults and children actively think about the consequences of their online activities on how other people see them.

  • Only 38 percent think about the effect their online activities may have on the reputations of others.

Those who don't think about the consequences of online activity on reputations are less likely to manage or positively influence their reputations through online activities.

Online Reputation Management Chart

Download the Executive Summary or PowerPoint presentation for more information.

  • Online Reputation Management Survey: Parents and Children 8-17 - Executive Summary PDF

  • Online Reputation Management Survey: Parents and Children 8-17 - PowerPoint presentation PPT

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Teen Online Reputation: 13 – 17 Years Old (July 2011, United States)

Teens want to protect their online reputation and acknowledge that doing so is essential to achieve their goals. Teens report they do a good job protecting their online reputation.

  • Teens believe that it is important to protect the following types of information: home address (88 percent), phone number (87 percent), family details (87 percent), photos (76 percent), email, (75 percent), and friend details (71 percent).

  • The majority of teens (91 percent) believe they have some or a lot of control over their personal information. Slightly fewer (87 percent) say that protecting their online privacy is their own responsibility. A smaller percentage of teens feel they have no control over their online privacy. These teens experience the highest incidence of negative consequences (29 percent) such as getting in trouble with their parents or being cyberbullied.

  • More teens (93 percent) have taken steps to protect their privacy than parents of teenagers have (88 percent).

However, teens also admit they can do better.

  • Nearly all negative consequences (90 percent) are largely the result of teens who mismanage their online reputation—by their own admission.

  • Slightly more than half of teens (55 percent) say they give little or no thought beforehand to the consequences of posting something online.

  • Roughly two thirds (57 percent) report there are some people in their social network they've never met in person.

Teen Online Reputation Chart

Download the Executive Summary or PowerPoint presentation for more information.

  • Teen Online Reputation Survey: 13 – 17 Years Old - Executive Summary PDF

  • Teen Online Reputation Survey: 13 – 17 Years Old - PowerPoint presentation PPT

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Safer Online Gaming: Perceptions and Behaviors of Gamers and Parents of Gamers (December 2010, United States)

Overall, parents surveyed rank the risks of online gaming for their kids low compared to other online activities. And while they report that the steps they’ve taken to help protect their children are effective, most are not using available family safety settings.

  • Thirteen percent of parents ranked online gaming as their top concern compared to online chatting (43 percent) and browsing social networks (20 percent).

  • Forty percent report using available family safety settings. Of those who don't use family safety settings, 54 percent reported not using them because they trust their child and 53 percent said they don't use them due to lack of awareness or lack of understanding how to find/use them.

Even though parents ranked the concerns of online gaming low, many gamers themselves reported experiencing abuse online—and for younger gamers, the abuse has impacted their online gaming behavior.

  • One in five gamers reported experiencing abuse while gaming online.

  • The results showed that gamers aged 18-24 (24 percent) are twice as likely as gamers under 18 (12 percent) to experience abuse.

  • Most gamers, 71 percent, claim they know what to do when they encounter abuse online, but many (44 percent) do not report it.

  • Two-thirds of gamers under 18 have either stopped playing online games or play them less due to a previous bad experience.

Download the Executive Summary or PowerPoint presentation for more information.

  • Safer Online Gaming: Perceptions and Behaviors Survey - Executive Summary PDF | XPS

  • Safer Online Gaming: Perceptions and Behaviors Survey - PowerPoint presentation PPT

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Location-Based Services: Usage and Perceptions (December 2010, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, and Japan)

Overall, awareness, familiarity and usage of location-based services (LBS) remains low across all countries surveyed. However, there are indications that widespread adoption is only a matter of time as perceived value of these services is high among those who use them.

  • 6 in 10 are aware of LBS, but confusion remains about what LBS are.

  • Among those who use LBS, 94 percent said they were either very valuable (41 percent) or somewhat valuable (53 percent).

  • GPS and weather alerts are most common uses of LBS while only 18 percent use LBS for sharing their location with others.

  • 52 percent of respondents expressed strong concern with sharing their location with other people or organizations.

  • Of those receiving a location-based advertisement, 46 percent took action and 80 percent considered the ads valuable.

Download the Executive Summary or PowerPoint presentation for more information.

  • Location-Based Services: Usage and Perceptions Survey - Executive Summary PDF | XPS

  • Location-Based Services: Usage and Perceptions Survey - PowerPoint presentation PPT

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Cyberbullying: Parents' and Educators' View (September/October 2010, United States)

While most parents and educators are concerned about cyberbullying, our research suggests they could be more proactive about their involvement with the issue.

  • 3 in 4 parents are very or somewhat concerned about cyberbullying.

  • 3 in 4 educators believe cyberbullying is a very or somewhat serious problem at their school.

  • Educators consider cyberbullying (76 percent) as big an issue as smoking (75 percent) and drugs (75 percent).

  • 2 in 5 parents report their child has been involved in a cyberbullying incident.

  • 1 in 4 educators have been cyber-harassment victims.

Download the Executive Summary or PowerPoint presentation for more information.

  • Parents and Educators Cyberbullying Survey - Executive Summary PDF | XPS

  • Parents and Educators Cyberbullying Survey - PowerPoint presentation PPT

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Parental Involvement in Children's Social Networking Activities (August 2010, United States)

Although most parents are aware of the risks of children having social networking accounts, many also gave their children permission to have those accounts.

  • 7 in 10 parents are very or somewhat concerned that their child has an account.

  • 7 in 10 parents are involved in their child’s social networking adoption process.

  • 3 in 5 16-17 year olds asked for permission to open an account.

  • 38 percent of children under 13 have an account, of those 84 percent have accounts with minimum age requirements of 13, and of those, 90 percent have them with permission from their parents.

Download the Executive Summary or PowerPoint presentation for more information.

  • Parents and Social Networking - Executive Summary PDF | XPS

  • Parents and Social Networking - PowerPoint presentation PPT

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Online Reputation (December 2009, United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany)

Microsoft commissioned research in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States to find out how people manage the information they and others place on the Internet.

The same research also studied how hiring managers and recruiters use this information to investigate job applicants and to what extent the data they find has a bearing on their hiring decisions.

  • Online reputation research overview PDF

  • Online reputation research PowerPoint presentation PPT

  • Does online information affect your reputation? Video

DPD research graph

Of participants surveyed, the percentage of hiring managers rejecting candidates based on their online profile information is higher in the United States than in the United Kingdom, Germany, or France.

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