Exploring the Online Disconnect between Parents and Kids

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Summer 2013 — Security News and Advice


If you’re like most parents, you probably have a pretty good idea of what your teens are doing in the real world, but when it comes to their online lives, the picture can become a little cloudier.

Finding out exactly what your teens are doing online, and with whom they communicate, can be difficult. This is despite the fact that 39% of parents try to monitor their kids’ online activities, according to the Digital Deception: Exploring the Disconnect between Parents and Kids study. After all, tech savvy teens often have an advantage over their parents’ limited digital experience, and try to hide what they do online.

For instance, 92% of youths surveyed said they had at least one social media account, many of which their parents didn’t know about. Teens also spend more time online than their parents realize. In fact, a quarter of youths said they spend 5-6 hours online a day, when their parents think that they only spend 1-2 hours a day.

Even more concerning are statistics showing that over a quarter of 10 – 23 year-olds say that they have witnessed cruel behavior on social networks, and 14% have even hacked into someone else’s social media account.

But, unfortunately, many parents are in the dark. Around 80% of parents said that they don’t even know how to find out what their kids are doing online, and 72% simply admit defeat, saying they don’t have the time or energy to figure it out, and are just hoping for the best.

This gap between what parents hope their kids are doing online, and the reality, can lead to danger. From sharing too much personal information, to communicating with strangers or participating in cyberbullying, it’s not that hard for kids to get caught up in risky online behavior if they don’t have guidelines on how to stay safe. That’s why it’s important for parents to get up to speed on their children’s online activities, even if they feel a little out of their element.

Here are some simple tips to help you eliminate digital deception, and ensure that your teen and the entire family stay safer online:

  • Talk to your teen—Start by asking questions about your child’s online behavior, like which sites they visit, who they chat with, and what kind of entertainment and activities they enjoy online. This will give you a good opportunity to talk about any potential dangers associated with their online activities and open the door to talking about online safety.
  • Discuss appropriate online behavior—Your teen may not realize that behaviors such as sharing too much personal information, or visiting risky websites, are putting themselves, and your whole family, at risk. Talk about appropriate online behavior, including how to avoid cyberbullying. It’s also important to teach them to treat anything they put online as public information that will be there forever.
  • Consider 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. Software such as McAfee All Access even allows you to monitor and block social networks and online gaming, and provides alerts and reports.
  • Keep up-to-date with technology—Close the gap between your tech knowledge and theirs by keeping up with the latest tools and advances. This will also make it more difficult for them to circumvent your parental controls.

Just by starting the conversation, you can show your teen that you are interested and engaged in what they are doing online and this alone will keep you better informed and able to help them stay safe.

Exploring the Online Disconnect between Parents and Kids

TRU and McAfee, Online Safety Survey, April 2013


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