Study: 70 Percent of Teens Hide Their Online Lives from Their Parents. But How?

Lylah M. Alphonse, Senior Editor, Yahoo! Shine
June 25, 2012

A new study commissioned by internet safety giant McAfee shows that 70 percent of teens are hiding their online behavior from their parents, up from 45 percent in 2010. But half of parents surveyed think their teens tell them about everything they do online.

Related: 10 things you don't know about teens and social networking

It's no surprise that teens try to keep their private lives away from their parents' prying eyes. But when it comes to social media and the issues associated with it, the question isn't why they do it, but how.

The activities go way beyond flirting on Facebook. According to the study, "The Digital Divide: How the Online Behavior of Teens is Getting Past Parents", 51 percent of teens admit that they've broken the law by hacking into someone else's social network account, and 31 percent say that they've pirated movies and music online. Forty-eight percent have admitted to looking up test answers online (16 percent from their smart phone), and 32 percent say that they've accessed porn online.

Girls are more likely to hide their online behaviors from their parents, the study pointed out. But the biggest problem is that parents seem like they're deliberately keeping themselves in the dark about what their kids are doing.

Twenty-three percent of parents admitted that they feel overwhelmed by modern technology and so, instead of talking to their kids about their online lives, they simply "hope for the best." Another 23 percent say they don't have the time or energy to monitor everything their teenagers do online. And 22 percent said they didn't think their kids could get into trouble online, in spite of news reports about sexting, cyber bullying, and other issues.

"Parents need to get informed about their children's online behavior," says Robert Siciliano, McAfee Online Security Expert. "The fact is that allowing teens to participate in unmonitored online activity exposes them to real dangers with real consequences, and these dangers are growing exponentially with the proliferation of social networks."

Here are the top 10 ways kids are hiding their online activity:

  • 53 percent of teens clear their browser history (but only 18 percent parents said they knew about it)
  • 46 percent close or minimize their browser when parent walked in (17 percent of parents knew)
  • 19 percent Hide or delete inappropriate videos (5 percent of parents knew)
  • 23 percent Lie or omit details about online activities (11 percent of parents knew)
  • 21 percent Use an internet-enabled mobile device (10 percent of parents knew)
  • 20 percent use privacy settings to hide content from parents (8 percent of parents knew)
  • 20 percent use private browsing (4 percent of parents knew)
  • 13 percent disable the parental controls (4 percent of parents knew)
  • 15 percent create private email address unknown to parents
  • 9 percent create duplicate/fake social network profiles unknown to parents

"While it is not necessarily surprising that teens are engaging in the same types of rebellious behaviors online that they exhibit offline, it is surprising how disconnected their parents are," says Stanley Holditch, Online Safety Expert for McAfee. "This is a generation that is so comfortable with technology that they are surpassing their parents in understanding and getting away with behaviors that are putting their safety at risk."

Copyright © 2012 Yahoo Inc.

Also on Shine:

Teaching teens online safety
Why protecting your teen's online reputation is critical for school
Cyber bullying prompts one mom to take action

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