I'm going to start by making an assumption: the use of the Internet and mobile technology — especially smartphones — by young people in Britain is not all that much different than how American teens use the Internet and their mobile devices. Likewise, it appears that British parents' understanding about what their kids are actually doing online is about as woefully lacking as the understanding that some, perhaps many, American parents have. Or put another way, British parents are just as clueless as American parents about their kids' online lives.
I raise this comparison now because we have new data on how British teens use the Internet and how much their parents know about their usage. The UK finding mirrors what the researchers previously found on this side of the Atlantic.
Last summer McAfee, the Internet security company, released a study of what kids told researchers about their Internet activities and what their parents told the researchers. To quote the study directly:
"Despite the obvious disconnect between teens' online behaviors and parents' knowledge of them, parents continue to exude a sense of confidence and control. Most parents insist they're in control when it comes to mentoring their teen's online behaviors. Yet, many teens believe their parents are in the dark.
"More than three in four parents express confidence they know how to find out what their teen is doing online, and half of parents live under the assumption that their teen tells them everything he/she does online. In reality, over two in three teens say their parents don't need to know everything they do online and half of teens would actually change their online behavior if they knew their parents were watching."
In the U.S. study:
- 61% of teens feel confident that they know how to hide what they do online from their parents and 71% of teens have actually done something to hide their online behavior.
- 53.3% clear their browser history.
- 45.9% minimize their browsers when parents come into view.
- 18.9% hide or delete inappropriate videos.
- 22.9% have lied about their Internet behavior.
- 19.9% manipulate social media privacy settings.
- 12.9% disable parental controls.
In the UK, a majority of teens are taking a number of steps to hide their online behavior.
- 47.5% of teens minimizing their browser when a parent enters the room38.8% clear their browser history.
- 28% hide/delete inappropriate video content.
- 17.7% of teens have created a private email address unknown to their parents.
I constantly remind you of the dangers of identity theft and urge you to talk with your children about protecting their personal information online. The study reinforces why you constantly need to remind your kids to be vigilant.
First the U.S. study, and now the British study, show in the words of the researchers that "many teens aren't concerned about posting personal details online. More worryingly still, most parents also don't realize the dangerous implications of this information being placed online for all to see."
The U.S. study found many teens post personal information online including photos (72%), emails (62%), name of their schools (53%), their cell numbers (29%) and intimate details of their lives (32%).
The British figures were very similar and, in addition, 13% of teens there said they had actually met up with someone they had met online.
In both countries a majority of parents said they think they know what their children are doing online, but the researchers conclude "Parents seem blind to the negative effects of inappropriate online behavior."
So I repeat: are you sure you know what your kids are doing online?