Tweens spending more time online and engaging in riskier behavior than parents realize

Tweens spending more time online and engaging in riskier behavior than parents realize
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A survey released today revealed that parents are seriously underestimating the amount of time their tweens and teens spend online. Even more surprising, a vast majority of parents believed that the internet was a safe for their kids. The McAfee survey, “Digital Deception: Exploring the Online Disconnect between Parents and Kids,” showed that teens and tweens online engage in a lot more risky behavior than their parents realize.

Think your kids are spending just an hour or so online?  Yeah, that’s what most parents believe, according to the poll. Results of the survey of young people, however, showed 52 percent of youngsters spending five or more hours a day online.

Here are some interesting stats from the poll of 1,173 young people aged 10 to 23 years old and 1,301 parents:

  • 82 percent of tweens (ages 10-12 in this study) believe that social media sites are very safe, or somewhat safe, and 79 percent of parents agree. (This despite the fact that online predators can be anywhere.)
  • Many tween share personal information, with nearly half posting photos of themselves, and 29 percent sharing their phone number.
  • More than 80 percent of the parents of tweens said that they don’t have the time or energy to keep up with everything their children do online. Only 9 percent say they know how to find out what their children are doing online. Parents of tweens are particularly overwhelmed.  Tweens are well aware, with 58 percent claiming that they know how to keep their online use a secret. A quarter of tweens admitted they had cleared or hidden what they have done online.
  • Close to 87 percent of kids check their social media accounts daily.
  • A quarter of the young people surveyed said they’d witnessed cruel behavior online, mostly on Facebook.
  • 71% of parents said that they have had a conversation with their child about being safe online, but the young responders had a different story. Only 44% of young people said that they had had such a conversation with their parents.

McAfee is an online security company, so that’s worth keeping in mind, but the study concluded:

In addition to monitoring and setting parental controls, parents must engage their child in dialogue about how to be safe online and what the implications and potential outcomes of unsafe online activity could be. Further, these conversations must happen early and often – first, in the tween years before they begin experimenting in deceptive and risky behavior, and repeatedly throughout their teen years, when they are most at risk.

Good advice. Take it. Talk to your kids. Find out what they are doing online. Take the time to set up parental controls. Yes, I know it is a pain and hard and you’re not sure how. You are smarter than your tween. You can figure it out. Knowledge is power, and knowledge will help keep your kids safe.

You can find the full publication of the study here.

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