Digital trends are constantly changing. Teens move seamlessly from one app to another while parents are left wondering whatever happened to MySpace. From Snapchat to FOMO to Finstas, it’s hard to keep track of what kids are doing and saying online.
Luckily, the 2017 NCSA Parent/Teen Online Safety Survey by the National Cyber Security Alliance is helping us keep up with “Generation App” by offering some insight on how kids communicate online, what their concerns are, and how parents can help.
Teens Spend a Lot of Time Online
That’s no surprise to parents, right? Even the teens themselves admit it: 28 percent say they spend “too much” time online; 46 percent say they’re on their devices a little more often than they’d really like. As of 2015, teens were spending about nine hours per day with online entertainment like music, videos, and social media. Of course, accessing the internet is easier than ever, considering that 82 percent of teens who go online have their own smartphones.
What Teens Do Online
Instagram and Snapchat surpassed Facebook as the most popular social media sites, and 59 percent of teens use social media on a frequent basis. When you look at boys and girls separately, you’ll see that girls use social media more than boys do: 70 percent compared to 49 percent.
In fact, there are a lot of differences when it comes to how boys and girls use and experience the internet. For example:
- 70 percent of girls and 51 percent of boys listen to music.
- 35 percent of girls and 51 percent of boys play games.
- 41 percent of girls and 29 percent of boys are bullied because of their appearance.
- 15 percent of girls and 24 percent of boys are bullied because of their political beliefs.
Here’s some good news: 52 percent of teens actually use their devices for homework and studying.
Family Rules…and Arguments
While today’s parents might have grown up arguing with their own parents about clothes, curfews, or the company they kept, today’s teens and parents argue about screen time. Disagreements about when to put the smartphone down are reported by 22 percent of teens and 26 percent of parents.
If you’ve set down some guidelines about your child’s internet use, you’re not alone: most teens have some rules, which may include some of these popular ones:
- Restrictions on devices at dinner
- Restrictions on sharing passwords with friends
- Being required to report scary or unsettling online incidents
Still, 28 percent of teens say they have no rules about how or when they use their devices (though only eight percent of parents say there are no rules). Even those who do have rules still admit to some online activity that they keep secret from their parents, like a secret social media account.
Interestingly, many members of “generation app” believe it’s their own responsibility to stay safe online, while many parents think it’s their job to keep their kids safe. The majority of parents and teens believe that internet usage guidelines help to keep them safe, and “In terms of enforcement, both teens and parents agree that taking a device away remains the most effective measure.”
Though sometimes it seems as though teens act without any regard for consequences, which can be a serious issue when it comes to online safety, the survey shows that many teens are “very concerned” about certain safety issues online. These are their top eight concerns:
- Someone accessing their accounts without permission.
- Someone sharing personal information about them.
- Someone posting a private photo or video of them.
- Someone posting lies about them.
- Someone sending unwanted messages that make them uncomfortable.
- Accidentally sharing Fake News.
- Being pressured to bully someone.
- Being bullied themselves.
Teenagers, as well as their parents, also indicated a desire to keep learning about certain safety issues. For the teens, these are their top five areas of interest:
- Preventing identity theft
- How to identify fake emails and posts
- Keeping their devices secure
- How to stay safe on free Wifi networks
- Ransomware/malware and phishing scams
How to Use This Information
As a parent, this survey provides a starting point in considering how your own child uses the internet and provides a place from which to start a conversation with your teen.
Learn Together: As the survey indicates, most likely your teens are not oblivious when it comes to online dangers. Ask them what their biggest concerns are–chances are, some of them match yours, as was the case with teens and parents in the survey. Together, take the opportunity to learn more about preventing identity theft (the topic survey parents are also most interested in learning about) or identifying fake news.
Ask About Their Safety Measures: Considering that many teens consider it their own responsibility to stay safe online, ask them what precautions they’re taking. Empower them to make safe choices.
Offer Your Support: More than one-third of teens in the survey said that someone has been mean to them online. Cyberbullying is especially damaging because it’s hard for kids to get away from it. Though many teens in the survey report seeking help from their friends when they have a negative experience on the internet, they need to know you’re there and will help them in a serious situation, like extreme bullying or blackmail.
Know How Your Teen Spends Time Online: Keep up with the social media sites your teens like to use and be aware of (and when) the trends change by reading technology news and talking with other parents.
It’s Not Just You: If your kids are saying their friends don’t have internet rules or that their friends don’t have to fight with their parents about their mobile devices, you know that’s probably not true. These disagreements are part of modern child-rearing, though by using trustworthy parental controls and setting the guidelines early in your children’s lives and sticking to them, you may be able to help prevent some of those arguments.
Set Guidelines: Again, you’re not alone. The survey shows that many households have rules about the internet, and many of the teens believe them to be helpful. Parental controls can be helpful in limiting your teen’s internet usage, both in the time spent and the sites or apps visited.
In the end, staying safe online requires teamwork: parents and teens can work together to ensure an enjoyable online experience despite the risks of modern technology.