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What Are Your Teens Really Doing Online?

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Fall 2012 — Security News and Advice


If you’re like many parents, you probably feel like you know what your teen is up to online. But do you, really? How can you tell if it’s time for parental control software to monitor Internet activity, block porn, or filter web content?

A recent McAfee study in the US1 found that 75% of parents felt confident and in control of their teens’ online behavior, yet 66% of teens said that their parents didn’t need to know what they do online. And, as it turns out, these teens were spending an average of five hours online each day, while their parents thought they were only spending two.

The disconnect between parents’ perception of their teen’s online behavior and the reality appears to be widespread. Parents around the world may be trying to monitor Internet activity and keep tabs on their kids when they are online, but these tech-savvy kids are finding workarounds.

The study also found that, 71% of teens said that they had taken steps to hide their online behavior, such as clearing their browser history or hiding or deleting inappropriate videos.

This is worrying because this kind of behavior could result in dangerous consequences. For example, your child could be accessing illegal content such as pirated music and movies, and if caught, could even end up with a criminal record. Furthermore, your teen could be watching porn and other inappropriate content without your knowledge, and have potentially dangerous contact with strangers.

Or, they could be involved in online bullying, which unfortunately, has become quite common. In fact, according to one recent study, 42% of kids have been bullied online2.

Giving these dangers, it’s important for parents to monitor Internet activity and become more involved in their teen’s online life. Here are some tips to help you keep your kids safe online:

  • Talk to your teen—Ask them how they use the Internet and which websites they use the most. This is also a good opportunity to talk about potential dangers and ways they can protect themselves, by using privacy controls and avoiding risky websites, for example.
  • Discuss appropriate online behavior—An innocent prank to some may be bullying to others. Make sure your child knows the difference so they don’t get caught up in any bullying behavior. Let your teen know that if they ever experience bullying or see someone else being bullied online, they should talk to you about it. Teach them to treat anything they put online as public information that will be there forever.
  • Install parental control software—This will allow you to filter web content, block porn, and set time limits on Internet use, as well as give you other controls. Parental control software such as McAfee Safe Eyes even allows you to monitor and block social networks and online gaming, and provides alerts and reports.
  • Keep up with technology—Stay ahead of your teen by keeping up-to-date on the latest technologies so it is more difficult for them to circumvent parental control software. While some parents find the fast-moving online world daunting, there are several family safety blogs that can help you stay informed, such as InternetSafety.com.

Just remember, simply opening up the lines of communication could help you feel more comfortable about your teen’s online behavior, and allow you to close the gap between what you know and what’s really going on.

1 TRU Insights & McAfee, May 2012
2 http://www.howtolearn.com/2011/04/cyber-bullying-a-growing-concern


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