Consumer, Family Safety, Mobile Security

Do You Know What Your Teens Are Doing Online?

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By on Jun 25, 2012

A new study called “The Digital Divide: How the Online Behavior of Teens is Getting Past Parents” (conducted by Tru Research and commissioned by McAfee) shows an alarming 70% of teens have hidden their online behavior from their parents, up from 45% in 2010. And yet half of parents live under the assumption that their teen tells them everything he/she does online.

It’s perfectly normal for teens to be less than forthcoming during these years when their hormones are raging and teen angst boggles their brain and body. However the Internet has drastically changed our culture and teens today have access to an incredible amount of information that they didn’t have, just a decade ago.

This instant access to information and digital devices is having an impact on our teens that many of us as parents don’t realize. Some of the revealing consequences are:

  • Friendships – 20% of teens said they had ended a friendship with someone because of something that happened on a social network.
  • Physical safety – 7% feared for their safety because of something that happened online, and 5% reported getting into a physical fight because of a problem that started online. More than 1 in 10 (12%) of teens have met someone in real life that they only knew online.
  • Criminal record – 15% said they have hacked someone’s social networking account and 31% have pirated music and movies.
  • Cheating – 48% of teens admitted to looking for test answers online, and 16% have used a smartphone to do this.
  • Innocence - 46% of teens report accidentally accessing pornography online and 32% reported accessing pornography intentionally.

And what about the parents? The study showed:

  • 1 in 3 believes their teen to be much more tech-savvy then they are, leaving them feeling helpless to keep up with their teen’s online behaviors.
  • 22% of parents do not believe their kids can get into trouble online.
  • Less than 1 in 10 parents are aware their teens are hacking accounts or downloading pirated content.
  • 78% of parents are not worried about their kids cheating at school.
  • Only 12% of parents thought their children accessed pornography online.

Parents, you must stay in-the-know. Since your teens have grown up in an online world, they may be more online savvy than their parents, but you can’t give up. You must challenge yourselves to become familiar with the complexities of the teen online universe and stay educated on the various devices your teens are using to go online.

As a parent of two young girls, I proactively participate in their online activities and talk to them about the “rules of the road” for the Internet. I’m hoping that this report opens other parent’s eyes so they’ll become more involved in educating their teens with advice and tools.

For more information, please visit:

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Evangelist to McAfee. Watch him discussing information he found on used electronic devices YouTube. (Disclosures)

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