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(New Study): What Parents Don’t Know About Their Children’s Internet Use

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We are living an incredible digital age, but it is also a scary one. McAfee recently released findings from the company’s 2013 Digital Deception: Exploring the Online Disconnect between Parents and Kids studythat examines the online habits and interests of preteens, teens, and young adults and finds there is a significant disconnect between what they do online and what their parents believe they do.

While youth understand that the Internet is dangerous, they still engage in risky behavior, hiding this activity from their parents in a variety of ways and acknowledging that they (46%) would change their behavior if they knew their parents were paying attention.

“This study has made it exceedingly clear that parents need to get involved, to understand what their children are doing online, and to engage them in a myriad of ways that will keep them living safe online. Children of all ages are shouting out for guidance, " said Michelle Dennedy, vice president and chief privacy officer at McAfee.

The survey found a huge disconnect between what parents think their kids do online and the reality of the situation:

  • Tech Overload—72% of parents are overwhelmed by technology and just “hope for the best,” while 46% of youth say that they would actually change their online behavior if their parents were watching.
  • Trouble and Tech—62% of parents don’t think their children can get into trouble online and 80% don’t even know how to find out what their kids are doing online.
  • App Savvy Kids – 92% of tweens who have passwords set for mobile apps by their parents know the passwords, while 60% of their parents think that they don’t.
  • Communication is Key—71% of parents believe they’ve had conversations with their children about proper online behavior, while only 44% of youth agree.
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Additional surprising findings from the study include: 

  • Hide and Seek – 58% of tweens know how to hide what they do from their parents online. Nearly a quarter clear their browser history settings to hide activity from parents.
  • What Kids Really Do in Their Rooms – 25% of youth spend 5-6 hours a day online, when their parents believe it to be only 1-2 hours. 57% of 13-23 year olds are searching for sexual topics, but only 13% of their parents believe it.
  • Taking Chances – 86% of youth believe social sites are safe so they continue to post personal information such as email addresses (50%) and personal activities, such as who they date (31%). Only 17% of parents are aware that they post emails and only 12% are aware that they share information such as who they date.

Do You Know Where Your Kids Are? – Youth use the following social media sites the most:

  • Facebook (86%). 85% of tweens 10-12 admitted to using Facebook, while technically, the minimum age is 13 years old. Facebook is A Hub for Mean Behavior – 27% of 10-23 year olds have witnessed cyberbullying on social networks and mostly on Facebook (89%). 46% of the 18-23 year olds that comment on social media sites use foul language.
  • Twitter (59%).
  • Instagram (46%).
  • Pinterest (42%).
  • Tumblr (38%).
  • Snapchat (33%).

In Do You Know What Your Kids are Hiding?, McAfee’s Online Security Expert, Robert Siciliano, shares tips and more details on how parents can become more tech savvy and make sure their kids are safe.

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