Teens Running Circles Around Parents on Social Media

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.

5 comments about "Teens Running Circles Around Parents on Social Media".
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  1. Khalid Low from Reindeer Company, June 25, 2012 at 12:40 p.m.

    With availability of Smartphones and the fact that most teens own one, a wrench has been thrown into the idea of patrolling how teens/kids use social media. It is becoming next to impossible for parents to monitor or manage how their teenage kids access or operate on social media.
    I have no clue as to what they can do or how it should be done but I would like to see experts come up with a logical analysis or guidance of how this should be handled. Every generation of parents has had it's own challenges of how to raise their kids and this decade brings a new (and difficult) challenge.

  2. Heather MacLean from Salesforce Marketing Cloud, June 25, 2012 at 12:44 p.m.

    These results raise some interesting questions/issues. For me, it is always about the protection of innocent and the need for laws and legislation to catch up with where we are in reality. Things are changing so rapidly that this remains a significant, but important challenge for our law makers. While there so many positives of social media, we must ensure that those of us who need protection, are protected.

  3. Walter Sabo from SABO media, June 25, 2012 at 1:09 p.m.

    Clearing the browser is like hiding the PLAYBOYS; If you're 14, you better do it. Laws are worthless and unwelcome.

  4. Walter Sabo from SABO media, June 25, 2012 at 1:11 p.m.

    Erik you've got a typo here:

    To their credit some parents are aware, at least in a general sense, that >> their << outmatched, with 23% admitting they feel “overwhelmed”

  5. Steve Kavetsky from AgooBiz, Inc., June 27, 2012 at 7:24 a.m.

    I have a strong feeling that all the %'s listed above [of kids who say they use one method or another to hide their activity from their parents] are %'s of kids who actually admitted to it. The realistic number is probably a lot higher.

    I understand that parents find it difficult to keep up with their kids' use of Social Media and technology in general. That being said, parents should start learning Social Media and get up to speed with technology. We're talking about their children's safety here. If their kids' grades were falling and their kids were on the brink of failing their classes - would good parents step in and take a much more involved role in their kids education? If their kids were doing drugs, would good parents become extra vigilant in their kids' lives and learn who their kids' friends are, etc? Of course the answers are yes [for the "good" parents].

    Social Networks and the internet are no different in impact from the above hypothetical scenarios. With all the good that Social Networks & the internet can bring to our lives & our businesses, it's a double-edged sword. Social Networks can also facilitate very dangerous things for our kids' lives [how to find drugs through other friends, predators, losing interest in studies, etc].

    Parents need to stop making excuses for why they can't keep up; do whatever it takes to keep up. After all, we're talking about our children and their futures.

    Great post for reflection and introspection if your a parent or plan to be - thanks Erik

    Steve Kavetsky
    Co-Founder/Pres. // The Social Commerce Network
    "WE work greater than me"

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