A study by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) researched online safety attitudes and behaviors of young people, finding that there is a complex relationship between US parents and teens.
“Keeping Up with Generation App: Parent/Teen Online Safety Survey” contained interviews from 804 online teenagers between 13 and 17 and a separate sample of 810 online parents. The study found numerous signs of an apparent “digital disconnect” represented by the fact that 60% of teen internet users have created online accounts that their parents do not know exist. This number is over double the 28% of online parents who speculate their young ones have secret accounts.
The research also discovered that there was a high reliance by teens on peer-to-peer support, with 43% of the subjects stating that friends have asked them for backup when they have been confronted with online issues.
The study, co-sponsored by Microsoft, was devised to understand the dynamic online lives of teens, along with the problems they face in their digital comings and goings, and their parents’ levels of interest and involvement. It found that as “Generation App” spends the better part of each day on the phone, computer, or other device using an array of apps and websites, mothers and fathers are having a difficult time keeping up.
Thirty percent of teenagers say their parents are “not aware at all” or “not very aware” of what the teens are doing online. Fifty-seven percent of mothers and fathers admit they do not know what their kids are doing online. And 28% of teenagers say their families have no rules at home when it comes to the tech world, but just 9% of parents said the same.
The central findings of the survey include the fact that most online teens experience the online world through the use of their smartphones, and the majority of teenagers are involved in some amount of online activity about which their parents do not know. Only 13% of online young people say their parents are “completely unaware” of what they are doing online, and most of the teens answered they have rules they have to follow when using tech at home.
Approximately four in ten of the subjects declared that someone has spoken to them in a mean or cruel way when online or using apps over the past year. Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed said the mean or hurtful statement sent to them involved their sexual orientation, 25% said it was about gender, and 24% noted it concerned their race or ethnicity.
Forty-seven percent of participants were “very concerned” about the safety of their online accounts, 43% worried that someone would share their personal information online, and 38% were troubled that someone would post a photograph or video of them online that they wanted to keep private. One in four teens reported they were “very concerned” about being redirected to content online about extreme religious or political activities outside their comfort zone. When asked which online safety topic they would most want to know more about, both parents and teenagers agreed that it was “preventing identity theft.”