It’s 10pm, do you know where your children are posting? Probably not, study finds

© Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Is Instagram replacing sneaking out of your room? Probably not, but parents wouldn’t be any the wiser if it were. A new study on teen internet use finds most parents are blissfully ignorant of their children’s social media activity.

The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) found that the majority of parents have no idea what their children are doing online. A study released on Tuesday claims that 60 percent of teenagers with social media accounts made them without their parents’ permission. However, only 28 percent of parents believed their children would ever do such a thing.

With a sample size of 810 online parents and 804 online teens, the disconnect between parents’ expectations and teen realities were quite interesting. For example, 9 percent of parents told NCSA that there were no rules in their household for their children’s use of internet-connected devices. However, 28 percent of teens surveyed claimed to live in digital anarchy.

Similarly, 44 percent of parents claimed to limit the amount of time their children spend in front of glowing digital boxes, while only 20 percent of teens felt that their time was limited by their parents.

Just 9 percent of teens believed that their online activities should be completely private from their families, but 33 percent did acknowledge that they would turn to their parents if they were in trouble because of the internet. However, 40 percent said they would go to friends.

Perhaps a larger issue of teens and social media is the rapid growth of apps and other technology that teenagers can use indiscriminately. For example, 73 percent of people between 30 and 49 used Facebook, while 63 percent of the 50 to 64 demographic are on the site, according to Sprout Social. However, Facebook has been losing popularity with the 13- to 17-year-old crowd and only 61 percent of those teens surveyed used it. 

Compare those numbers to more popular platforms, such as Instagram and SnapChat. Sixty-five percent of youths are on Instagram, and 66 are on Snapchat. However, only 25 percent of the 30-49 demographic use Instagram and 11 percent for 50- to 64-year-olds. For Snapchat, the numbers are so skewed that the most specific estimate is that only 29 percent of their users are above 25 years old.

What this means is that there are many platforms that parents wouldn’t have familiarity with and could potentially be less effective at monitoring their children’s’ activity.

However, the survey did find that teenagers are concerned about keeping themselves safe and protected online. While horror stories still spring up, 55 percent of teens are interested in learning about keeping their identity secure on the internet, and 41 percent would like to know more about protecting their devices from cyberattacks.