A new McAffee study has rocked the Internet safety world. Very sadly, many parents are absolutely clueless about what their kids are doing online. Some parents find technology so difficult to understand that they simply throw up their hands and do nothing. Some parents live in complete denial and don’t believe their kids can get into trouble on the internet. Some parents trust their child to behave appropriately online and to stay away from “bad” content.
How many parents have walked into a room where their child is on the computer to see windows suddenly closed? Then parents often get in a back and forth argument with their child about what they were doing online. These parents are right to be concerned.
It turns out that a whopping 70 percent of teens (up from 45 percent in 2010) are hiding what they do online from their parents. Forty-eight percent are accessing websites that their parents would not allow, 43 percent of teens have accessed simulated violence online, 36 percent have read about sex topics online, and 32 percent went online to see nude photos or pornography.
Kids are closing windows so that their parents don’t find out what they’re doing online. Fifty-three percent are erasing browser histories. They may create a Facebook account that their parents don’t know about, or manipulate the privacy settings to block parents. They also lie about what they’re doing online. I always wonder, if kids are learning to be so good at being sneaky online, don’t you think they’ll take these same learned skills to the “real” world? Do we really want to have the internet be a clubhouse for kids, parents not wanted? Or should we be part of our kid’s online world so that we can teach them and instill our personal family values? Clearly there is a great deal to teach our kids about Internet safety, Internet use and online behavior.
Teens continue to post personal information online which puts them at risk for identity theft, phishing scams and predators. They post their school name, intimate details, and their cellphone number.
There is also a digital divide about how long parents think their kids are actually online. The reality is that kids are online on average for 3 hours longer than parents think they are. Most parents think their kids are online for 2 hours a day. 41 percent of Teens are also checking their social networking accounts constantly yet only 22 percent of parents are aware of this.
Kids are not telling their parents when they are cyberbullied. Twenty-three percent of kids have been targets of cyberbullying, yet only 10 percent of parents know this has happened.
Parents need to get in the know and parent online just as they do offline
A parent would be never allow a 12-year-old to go to an R rated movie, or go to a party with older teens. Parents know who their kids are hanging out with in the offline world. Parents need to apply the same offlline principles of parenting to the online world.
To keep children out of harms way and teach safe, appropriate computer behavior, parents need to monitor their children’s computer activity. And kids need to know parents are checking. A parent doesn’t have to be computer savvy to click on an icon to see exactly what their child is doing online. They also don’t have to hover at the computer constantly. They need to check in live occasionally to make sure their kids are complying with Internet safety rules. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to scroll through recordings made when a parent isn’t home. It does take commitment to be a better online parent. The good news is that when parents are checking online risks decrease. According to the survey, "half of teens say that they would think twice about their online activities if they new parents were watching.”