What Are Teens Really Up To Online?
June 26, 2012

What Are Teens Really Up To Online?

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com

Here´s another story for the “obvious” file: Teens are better at the Internet than their parents and hide their behavior from them. At least, that´s the conclusion of a study from McAfee.

According to the study, parents only think they´re in control of their kids´ online usage while the kids think their parents are clueless. No matter how much things change, the more they will inevitably stay the same.

“This is a generation that is so comfortable with technology that they are surpassing their parents in understanding,” said Stanley Holditch, Online Safety Expert for McAfee.

The study found that nearly every parent surveyed (more than 3 out of every 4) said they were “confident” they knew how to find out what their kids were doing online. Half of these parents even believe their kids are telling them everything they do online. When asked, the majority of teenagers (2 out of 3) said their parents had no idea what they were up to online. Clearly feeling guilty, more than half of these kids said they would change their online behavior if they knew their parents were watching. How would these teens change their behavior?

- 53% said they would start with the obvious clearing of their browsing history

- 46% said they would simply close or minimize their internet browser window when their parents walked in the room.

- 34% of these teens would actually hide or delete their stored IMs or videos.

- 23% said they would either lie about their online behavior or switch to a computer they knew their parents never checked.

- 21% of teens said they just used an internet-enabled mobile device to perform their randy shenanigans.

- 20% employed privacy settings to either make certain content only available to friends or to hide their browsing history from their parents

- Finally, 15% of teens said they use private email addresses, unknown to their parents, while 9% said they just use duplicate or fake social network profiles to carry out their misdeeds.

To gather these statistics, McAfee partnered with market analysts TRU to interview 2,017 13-17 year olds as well as parents of these teens.

As for the parents, the study found:

- 17.5% of parents are aware their kids are clearing the browser history

- 16.6% of parents catch their kids hiding or minimizing their browsing window when they walk into the room

- only 5.4% of parents know that their kids are hiding or deleting inappropriate content

- A meager 3.8% of parents are aware their teenagers are disabling the parental controls.

According to this study, teenage girls are more likely to deceive and manipulate their parents.

The story continues in its obviousness: The study also found the most popular social networking site on the web is Facebook, with 89.5% of respondents saying they use the site. Coming in at a distant second is Twitter with 48.7%. Not very far behind is Google+ with 41.5% saying they used the site.

According to the study, Tumblr is more popular with teenaged girls, while 4Chan is more popular with the boys. McAfee notes both of these sites are actually growing faster than every other social networking site.

The study suggests parents need a one-two fix to this problem, first by educating themselves on the ways of the internet, then by keeping the lines of communication open between them and their teens.

According to Robert Siciliano´s blog post, "Parents, you must stay in-the-know. Since your teens have grown up in an online world, they may be more online savvy than their parents, but you can't give up. You must challenge yourselves to become familiar with the complexities of the teen online universe and stay educated on the various devices your teens are using to go online.”