Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about the relationship between children, their parents, and the Internet. Most of us would probably agree that parents need to educate their kids about getting the most out of the internet while staying safe. The problem seems to be that, although parents worry about their kids, they are unable, or unwilling, to take the necessary steps to create the next generation of Netizens.
The truth of the matter is that the Internet is an 18+ world – always has been. Kids need to be shown early on how to navigate and keep themselves (and others) safe and productive online.
The 2013 McAfee Digital Deception Study explores the online disconnect between parents and pre-teens, teens, and young adults. This 23-page report makes it clear that many parents’ perceptions are out-of-sync with today’s online reality. Some of their findings include:
- 62% of parents don’t think their child can get into that much trouble online.
- Only 17% believe the online world is as dangerous as the offline world.
- Only 20% say they know how to find out what their child is doing online.
- 74% of parents say they don’t have the time or the energy to keep up with everything their child is doing online.
- 72% of parents say they are overwhelmed by modern technology and just hope for the best.
- 66% say their child is more tech-savvy than they are, and they’ll never be able to keep up with their child’s online behaviors.
Really? The majority of parents don’t think their child can get into that much trouble online? Only 20% say they know how to find out what their child is doing online? 74% of parents say they don’t have the time or the energy to keep up with everything their child is doing online? Come on, get with it parents – invest some time (and potentially money) into internet literacy. If you don’t know where to start, simply Google “How to track kids online activity” and start reading. I’ll bet your kids will be at least this resourceful when they are looking for ways to hide their activity from you.
Sure, kids don’t make it easy on their parents to find out what they are doing online. This study also showed that young people use a whole host of techniques to hide their online behaviour from their parents, and less than half (47%) of parents are aware of these measures, which include:
- Clearing browser history or using a different browser than their parents
- Deleting IMs and videos
- Viewing content away from the home and on different devices
- Creating private email addresses and social media accounts their parents don’t know about
- Disabling the parental controls
In essence, young people know how to hide their online activity, and most parents are either clueless or unmotivated to do anything about it. The golden nugget in this study, from my perspective, was that the report indicates that nearly half (46%) of these young people said they would actually change their online behaviour if they knew their parents were watching.
Below you will find an infographic with similar stats about social media use by children. It also contains plenty of stats covering cyber-bullying, sexting, the amount of time a young person spends online, etc. As you might imagine, I was most intrigued by the “Parental Perceptions” section. For example, 72% of parents worry theirs kids will share inappropriate information with strangers online, but only 33% have helped their children establish privacy settings. It seems as though the actions of parents don’t match their anxieties in this case.