The Digital Divide: How Teens Are Fooling Their Parents

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This is a guest post from McAfee.

A recent study “The Digital Divide: How the Online Behavior of Teens is Getting Past Parents” (conducted by TRU Research and commissioned by McAfee) shows an alarming 70% of teens have hidden their online behavior from their parents, up from 45% in 2010. And yet half of parents live under the assumption that their teen tell them everything they do online.

It’s perfectly normal for teens to be less than forthcoming during these years when their hormones are raging and teen angst boggles their brain and body. The Internet has drastically changed our culture and the way we all lead our everyday lives. Teens today have access to an incredible amount of information that they didn’t have, just a decade ago.

This instant access to information and digital devices is having an impact on teens that many parents don’t realize. Some of the surprising consequences are:

  • Friendships – 20% of teens said they had ended a friendship with someone because of something that happened on a social network.
  • Physical safety – 7% feared for their safety because of something that happened online, and 5% reported getting into a physical fight because of a problem that started online. More than 1 in 10 (12%) of teens have met someone in real life that they only knew online.
  • Criminal activity – 15% said they have hacked someones social networking account and 31% have pirated music and movies.
  • Cheating – 48% of teens admitted to looking for test answers online, and 16% have used a smartphone to do this.
  • Innocence – 46% of teens report accidentally accessing pornography online and 32% reported accessing pornography intentionally.


And what about you as parents? The study showed:

  • 1 in 3 believes their teen to be much more tech-savvy then they are, leaving them feeling helpless to keep up with their teen’s online behaviors.
  • 22% do not believe their kids can get into trouble online.
  • Less than 1 in 10 parents are aware their teens are hacking accounts or downloading pirated content.
  • 78% of parents are not worried about their kids cheating at school.
  • Only 12% of parents thought their children accessed pornography online.


Given these revealing statistics, it’s important for parents to monitor Internet activity and become more involved in their teens online life. Here are some tips to help you keep your kids safe online:

  • Talk to your teen—Ask them how they use the Internet and which websites they use the most. This is also a good opportunity to talk about potential dangers and ways they can protect themselves, by using privacy controls and avoiding risky websites.
  • Discuss appropriate online behavior—An innocent prank to some may be bullying to others. Make sure your child knows the difference so they don’t get involved in bullying behavior. Let your teen know that if they ever experience bullying or see someone else being bullied online, they should talk to you or another trusted adult about it. Teach them to treat anything they put online as public information that will be there forever.
  • Install parental control software—This will allow you to filter web content, block porn, and set time limits on Internet use, as well as give you other controls. Parental control software such as McAfee Safe Eyes even allows you to monitor and block social networks and online gaming, and provides alerts and reports.
  • Keep up with technology—Stay ahead of your teen by keeping up-to-date on the latest technologies so it is more difficult for them to circumvent parental control software.

Needless to say, parents of teens nowadays must do everything they can to stay in-the-know. Since your teens have grown up in an online world, they may very well be more online savvy than you, but this shouldn’t be an excuse to give up. As parents, we must challenge ourselves 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.

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