70% of teens hide online behavior from parents
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70% of teens hide online behavior from parents

McAfee (http://www.mcafee.com), a security technology company, has released findings from the company’s "2012 Teen Internet Behavior" study. They're disturbing, though not surprising.

The study investigates the online habits, behaviors, interests, and lifestyles of the first generation to truly grow up online, and discloses how teens are not only engaging in risky behaviors, but how they are hiding it from their parents, many of whom don’t realize they are being fooled. The study also exposes 10 ways teens are hiding their online activities from their parents.

Despite their awareness of online dangers, teens continue to take risks by posting personal information and risky photos online, unbeknownst to parents. Many teens are accessing inappropriate online content, despite 73.5% of parents whom trust their teens to not access age-inappropriate content online. Specifically 43% of teens have accessed simulated violence online, 36% have access sexual topics online, and 32% have accessed nude content or pornography online.

Nearly half of parents believe their teens tell them everything they do online and insist they are in control when it comes to monitoring their teen’s online behaviors. However, the study reveals that teens deceiving their parents are on the rise, as over 70% of teens have found ways to avoid parental monitoring, compared to 2010, where 45% of teens have hidden their online behavior from a parent.

The top 10 ways teens are fooling their parents include:

° Clearing the browser history (53%);

° Close/minimize browser when parent walked in (46%);

° Hide or delete IMs or videos (34%);

° Lie or omit details about online activities (23%);

° Use a computer your parents don’t check (23%);

° Use an internet-enabled mobile device (21%);

° Use privacy settings to make certain content viewable only by friends (20%);

° Use private browsing modes (20%);

° Create private email address unknown to parents (15%);

° Create duplicate/fake social network profiles (9%).

As teens continue to outsmart their parents online, more and more teens are participating in dangerous and even illegal activities. Surprisingly, 15% of teens have hacked a social network account, 30.7% access pirated movies and music, and 8.7% have hacked someone’s email online, while less than 15% of parents are aware their children are engaging in any of these behaviors.

Instant access to information has also made it easier than ever for teens to cheat in school with 16% of teens having admitted to looking for test answers on their phone, and 48.1% of teens having looked up answers online. Meanwhile 77.2% of parents said they were not very or not at all worried about their teens cheating online, again showing the disconnect.

"While it is not necessarily surprising that teens are engaging in the same types of rebellious behaviors online that they exhibit offline, it is surprising how disconnected their parents are," says Stanley Holditch, Online Safety Expert for McAfee. "There is a major increase in the number of teens finding ways to hide what they do online from their parents, as compared to the 2010 study. This is a generation that is so comfortable with technology that they are surpassing their parents in understanding and getting away with behaviors that are putting their safety at risk."

In addition to putting themselves in risky situations, teens are finding that much of this online behavior is attributing to personal problems. In fact, over half of teens with a social network account have already experienced negative consequences as a result of being on a social network account, such as arguing with friends (35.4%), getting into trouble at home or school (25.2%), ending friendships (20%), fearing for their safety (6.8%), and physical fights (4.5%). Conversely, many parents live in denial, with only 22% claiming that their teens can get into that much trouble online.

Despite the classic “not my kid” denial, many parents are starting to up the ante with online monitoring to help keep their kids safe online by: setting parental controls (49%), obtaining email and social network passwords (44%), taking away computer and mobile devices (27%), and using location-based devices to keep track of teens (10%). But there are still some parents so overwhelmed by technology that they are throwing up their hands and hoping for the best. In fact, 23% of the surveyed parents disclosed that they are not monitoring their children’s online behaviors because they are overwhelmed by technology.

"Parents need to get informed about their children’s online behavior," says Robert Siciliano, McAfee Online Security Expert. "The fact is that allowing teens to participate in unmonitored online activity exposes them to real dangers with real consequences, and these dangers are growing exponentially with the proliferation of social networks."

TRU conducted a total of 2,017 online interviews in the U.S. among teens ages 13-17 and parents of teens ages 13-17. These interviews were split evenly among 1,004 teens and 1,013 parents of teens. The parent/teen samples yield a margin of error of + 3.1 percentage points. The total sample of 2,017 yields a margin of error of + 2.2 percentage points. The interviews were conducted from May 4 through May 29, 2012.

-- Dennis Sellers

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