Your teens and tweens engage in a lot more risky behavior online than you think, according to a new survey by the online security firm McAfee.
McAfee’s 2013 “Digital Deception: Exploring the Online Disconnect between Parents and Kids” examined the behavior of tweens, teens and college-age kids and contrasted that with what their parents knew about kids’ online experiences.
The sad answer is not much.
• 88 percent of tweens and teens said their parents trust them to be safe online, but most acknowledged abusing that trust by posting intimate details about themselves (including phone numbers, email addresses, the name of their schools and home addresses). Risky behavior starts in the tween years but picks up significantly as kids get older, McAfee found.
•Kids often seek online information about topics they hesitate to talk to parents about. Close to 70 percent of those 18 to 24 have looked up information about sex, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. About 30 percent of teens and young adults sought out information on depression, but only 6 percent of their parents were aware of it. A quarter looked up information on drugs without their parents’ knowledge. About 15 percent of kids looked up information about suicide or eating disorders, but less than three percent of their parents knew.
• Nearly half of kids said they’d seen sexual content online that disturbed them or made them feel uncomfortable, but less than 20 percent of parents knew about it. Almost 40 percent of kids intentionally looked up simulated or real-life violence online and almost a quarter sought out sex or pornography sites. About 10 percent had shared intimate photos or videos of themselves.
• A quarter of the young people surveyed said they’d witnessed cruel behavior online, mostly on Facebook. Nearly 13 percent said they’d been victims of cruelty online. In either case, parents rarely knew.
Most parents feel overwhelmed by technological hurdles, ignorance their tech-savvy kids use to their own advantage, McAfee found in online interviews with parents and teens conducted in the first two weeks of April.
Most tweens, teens and young adults said they hid their online activities from parents. Kids cleared browser histories, hid or deleted videos, or created email or social media accounts their parents know nothing about. About 11 percent of tweens and 17 percent of teens had downloaded and used a different browser than their parents to cover their tracks.
No wonder so many parents reported feeling outflanked.
More than 70 percent of parents surveyed said they don’t have the time or energy to keep up with their kids’ online activities. Nor do they know how to monitor them.
Parents of tweens were the most likely to say they feel so overwhelmed by technology that they just hope for the best when their kids are online.
McAfee’s advice? Buck up.
Parents should try to monitor kids’ activities to keep them safe.
But because kids are adept at learning how to bypass controls, parents need also must engage in regular, ongoing conversations with kids about online safety and the consequences of risky behavior, McAfee said.
Start talking when kids are tweens, the security firm said, and step up conversations as kids move into their teen years, when they’re most likely to engage in risky and deceptive behavior.
Although McAfee doesn’t say so, parents also can leverage kids’ love of technology to find a fitting consequence for risky behavior.
Close to 87 percent of kids check their social media accounts daily.
Take away their technology for a while and, chances are, they’ll pay attention.