Study Finds Parents Clueless About Kids' Online Behavior

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Study Finds Parents Clueless About Kids' Online Behavior

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. 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.

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.

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.

Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer