It seems to be an eternal truth: parents always try to monitor their teens to prevent them from doing stupid, self-destructive things, and the teens always succeed in evading them. The latest iteration is occurring online, with social media, where the kids frolicking with risk-taking abandon right under the noses of their elders.
That’s according to a new survey from McAfee titled “The Digital Divide: How the Online Behavior of Teens is Getting Past Parents.” First of all, teens are spending way more time online than their parents suspect -- five hours a day versus two hours a day, respectively. The same is true of social media in particular: while 48% of parents think their teens check social media daily, the actual proportion is 60%. Just 22% of parents think their teens check social media “constantly,” versus 41% actually doing so.
Parents are trying to supervise teens’ social media use, with 49% installing parental controls and 44.3% saying they know their teens’ passwords. But teens are using a variety of strategies to evade parental supervision, and it seems to be working, judging by the fact that many parents aren’t even aware of what’s going on. Overall 71% of teens say they hide their online activity from their parents, while only 56% of parents are aware of this.
In terms of specific strategies, 53.3% of teens say they clear their browser history, while just 17.5% of parents are aware they’re doing this. 45.9% of teens say they minimize browsers when their parents are around, while just 16.6% of parents are aware this is happening. 18.9% of teens delete inappropriate videos, while just 5.4% of parents have caught on to this. 19.9% of teens manipulate privacy settings to block their parents, with just 8.1% of parents noticing. 21.3% of teens use their phone to access social media, while just 9.7% of parents realize this. And of course there’s always good, old-fashioned lying, with 22.9% of teens resorting to this time-honored strategy, while just 10.5% of parents are aware they’re being lied to.
To their credit some parents are aware, at least in a general sense, that their outmatched, with 23% admitting they feel “overwhelmed” by modern technology, and a similar proportion saying they don’t have the time or energy to keep up with their kids online.