Two recent surveys into US parental concerns about teens online activity online caught my eye this week – one by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, the other by The Family Safety Online Institute (FOSI).
Pew’s study focussed on parental concerns about how teenage behaviour online could be monitored by others – advertisers, for example (topical, given the current state of debate over the COPPA regulations), or future employers.
The news is that yes, the majority of parents really are worried by this, and many are taking steps to observe, discuss, and check up on their children’s digital footprints.
According to Pew’s survey of 802 parents and their 802 teens ages 12-17:
- 81% of parents of online teens say they are concerned about how much information advertisers can learn about their child’s online behavior, with some 46% being “very” concerned.
- 72% of parents of online teens are concerned about how their child interacts online with people they do not know, with some 53% of parents being “very” concerned.
- 69% of parents of online teens are concerned about how their child’s online activity might affect their future academic or employment opportunities, with some 44% being “very” concerned about that.
- 69% of parents of online teens are concerned about how their child manages his or her reputation online, with some 49% being “very” concerned about that.
- Some of these expressions of concern are particularly acute for the parents of younger teens; 63% of parents of teens ages 12-13 say they are “very” concerned about their child’s interactions with people they do not know online and 57% say they are “very” concerned about how their child manages his or her reputation online.
FOSI’s study was an interesting reflection on the disconnect which exists between teens and their parents through all parts of life, including, it seems, online. Think you’ve had ‘the online talk’ with your teen? Think again. You may have been talking to the hand. Only 61% of teens reported having a conversation with their parents about online safety, though a majority of parents (91%) say they’ve had that conversation. Other stats from the report:
- 38% of parents would say they are “well informed” about their teen’s use of Twitter. Only 14% of teens would agree with that.
- There also are notable gaps between parents who say they are very well informed and teens who say the same of their parents when it comes to specific social networking services, such as Facebook (18-point gap), Pinterest (14-point gap), and Tumblr(15-point gap).
- When it comes to parents’ monitoring of their teens online or mobile activity, 39% of teens say their parents monitor their activities ‘very’ (11%) or ‘somewhat’ closely (28%). On the other hand, more than four in five (84%) parents report that they monitor their teens’ usage ‘very’ (31%) or ‘fairly’ (53%) closely—a 45-percentage-point gap in perceptions.