Generation Gap Online Between Parents And Teenagers
November 15, 2012

Sizeable Online Generation Gap Between Teens And Parents

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Teenagers are more connected than ever, and understand online privacy and safety issues differently than previous generations, according to a new study from the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) that investigated the online generation gap between parents and teens.

The survey found that found 91% of parents say they know what their teens do online and with their mobile phones. However, just 62% of teens say their parents are very (21%) or somewhat (41%) well informed about their online activities.

With respect to online safety, 84% of parents say they monitor their kids' online use either very or fairly closely, while just 39% of teens saying their parents do so -- a remarkable 45% gap in perceptions, the survey found.

The differences are particularly pronounced when it comes to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, with 38% of parents saying they are well informed about what their kids are doing, while only 14% of teens believe they are.

Interestingly, both teens and parents say they felt teens are generally safe online, with 95% of teens report feeling very safe (37%) or somewhat safe (58%) online, and 94% of parents agreeing.

However, the teenagers´ definition of online safety tended to focus more on online privacy, and ensuring no one has access to their personal information, while 29% of parents say avoiding threats or danger from strangers was their top concern.

Parents also tend to underestimate their teenager´s concern about the potential consequences of their online activities, FISO said. Indeed, less than one-quarter of parents (21 %) say teens are most concerned about identity theft, when this is a top concern for a plurality of teens (44 percent). Fewer than 10 percent of parents say teens are worried about online posts creating problems with colleges or employers, when in reality 30 percent of teens say these are top concerns.

The survey found promising news regarding teens´ online privacy habits, with 81% of teens saying they use privacy settings on their social networks, and 65% saying they set limits on sharing their posts. Half of the surveyed teens reported unfriending someone due to an offensive post.

Perhaps surprisingly, FISO found that most teens don´t actually mind parental monitoring, with fewer than half of teens who report close parental monitoring saying they are bothered by their parents´ knowledge of their online or mobile activities.

A majority of teens said having a parent looking over their shoulder does not present a great nuisance, and more than half say they are not that bothered (32 percent) or not at all bothered (22 percent) by their parents following or monitoring what they do online or on their cell phone.

“The goal of this survey was to better understand and address the online generation gap between teens and their parents,” said FOSI chief executive Stephen Balkam.

“While significant gaps exist, it´s heartening to see that the majority of teens understand the consequences of their actions online and are taking the right steps to be good digital citizens. By better understanding the differences in perceptions between parents and teens, we can work together to improve communication and make the Internet a safer and more productive place for families.”

The research consisted of two nationwide online surveys: one among 511 13- to 17-year-olds who use the Internet at least occasionally, and another among 500 parents of 13- to 17-year- olds who access the Internet.

The results were released this week during FOSI´s annual conference in Washington, D.C.

The full report can be viewed here.