McAfee released a survey in the US on Monday, June 25th outlining the results of teens and their online behavior The shocking statistic is that 70% of those responded admitted to hiding their online behavior from their parents. This was up from 45% in 2010 when the same survey was conducted. Why the huge jump in figures? According to McAfee spokesman, Robert Siciliano, the two main reasons are the sheer explosion of social media and ad-sponsored pornography that is available.

Plus with smartphones, teens have full access to Internet wherever they are without the parental controls found on their computer at home.

Some of the tactics used to hide behaviour included:

  • Clearing their browser history
  • Closed or minimized browser windows when parents walked into the room
  • Hiding or deleting instant messages or videos
  • Using another computer in the home that wasn’t screened

A large number of parents mentioned trusting their children not to visit inappropriate sites. A quarter of the parents responded said there were no controls at home because of feeling overwhelmed by the technology. However, for the safety of their children online, parents need to become more savvy with these new gadgets & social media. They must have conversations around the issues of appropriate Internet use and safety. Not to mention the fact that these porn sites often carry nasty viruses that could infect the hardrive.

On a positive note, over 75% of the parents polled do have these conversations with their children. Almost half said that they were using parental controls. Despite the fact that these are American statistics, the numbers probably aren’t that different in Canada either.

Parents shouldn’t be afraid to be assertive on this issue. These sites are huge time wasters and create an unnatural world for their teens. It increases their lack of empathy and lack of ability to communicate effectively. Ultimately, friendships may be badly affected by posts that hurt. These will all contribute to preventing them from maturing well into adulthood.

While teens may be more savvy around the Internet than their parents, they lack the experience and judgement to make wise choices. Other topics that parents should discuss with their teens include:

  • Refrain from revealing personal information like where they go to school or live and posting revealing pictures of themselves.
  • Advise them not to give their passwords to friends. A friend today can be an enemy tomorrow who now has access to your teen’s account. He/she may pose as your teen and post very hurtful comments for the other friends to read.
  • Cyber civility is just the same as face to face civility. If I can’t say that to your face, then I shouldn’t post it either.
  • Those mean comments may be construed as bullying to others.
  • Discourage secrecy…remind your teens that social media is very public. They have no control over who actually reads their posts.
  • Encourage your teens to know their school policy surrounding the use of the computer. Teach them what plagiarism really is. If a University student uses someone else’s ideas as their own even if it’s repackaged, this is stealing and most post-secondary institutions take a very dim of this. Ignorance is not a defense This goes on their record.

Finally, try to unplug from the gadgets at least one day during the week. Everyone including Mom and Dad need to find fun, interesting ways to reconnect again as human beings. Include other families in some of your expeditions so more people can benefit together.

The nation-wide survey included 1,004 13-17 yrs teens and 1,013 parents conducted from May 4 – 29, 2012 with a margin or error plus or minus 3 percent.

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