It is important for us as parents and community members to understand the potential benefits to their online lives (increasing communication skills, online learning, etc.) while minimizing the many risks associated with having this information and increased means of communication at their fingertips.
In May of 2010, McAffee conducted a study of over 1.300 teens from 13-17 years old on how they use the internet, what kind of content they view , download and what types of behaviors they are engaging in.
- 81% of 16-17 year olds have a social networking account (up almost 25% from 2008)
- Nearly all kids (91%) say that their parents trust them to do what’s right online. However, 56% say that their parents know some of what they do online, but not everything.
- About a third (32%) say that they don’t tell their parents what they are doing online, and would change their behavior if they knew their parents were watching (31%)
- By the time they reach the ages of 16 or 17, 56% of teens hide their online activities.
- 29% minimize the screen to hide online activities from parents and 21% delete and hide text messages as well as delete browser history on the computer. The study found that girls were more likely to engage in this behavior.
- 12% of teens give their phone number to people they do not know offline. (up from 8% in 2008)
- 43% of teenage girls ages 16-17 chat online with people they do not know in the offline world, compared to 25% of girls, overall.
What can we do?
Communication: The best place to start is with communication. Having an open dialogue with a teen about what they do online and some of the extreme risks can play a huge role in increasing their safety. They may be more likely to come to you with a scary situation or ask for your help in dealing with an online problem.
Education: It is very important to familiarize yourself with some of the places that your teens are going online. Ask them. Have very clear conversations with them about the kind of information that is safe to share and whom they should share it with.
Teens have known how to use the internet from an early age. Teaching our children & teens how to stay safe online can be likened to teaching them about the dangers of drugs and alcohol or safe sex. We wouldn’t drop them off on a freeway to learn how to ride a bike, or throw them in the deep end of a pool to learn to swim. Schools can only teach them so much. The more you are paying attention (checking their Facebook page, text messages, online accounts, asking questions etc.), the more they will too.
You may also consider computer software that allows you to set limits in terms of content, communication, downloading and other potentially dangerous activities.
For the full report:http://us.mcafee.com/en-us/local/docs/lives_of_teens.pdf