Teens’ Online Behavior Can Get Them in Trouble

Do you really know what your kids are doing all the time? Probably not, unless you’re a stalker (just kidding). But really, there has to be some element of trust and you can’t physically be everywhere your kids are. And that also applies to the online world. As parents, we need to be aware of what our kids are doing, teach the “rules of the road,” and help them stay safe, but we can’t always be there with them every moment of every day.

But we do need to understand that our kids are doing things online that could expose them to risk. McAfee’s 2014 Teens and Screens study showed that tween and teens continue to interact with strangers online and overshare information, even though they realize that these activities can put them at risk.

So what else did the study unveil? About 75% of tweens and teens friend people whom they know in the real world, however, 59% engage with strangers online. And one out of 12 meet the online stranger in real life. This could be because 33% of them say they feel more accepted online than in real life.

Additional facts to understand:

  • Our tweens and teens overshare personal information – 50% posted their email address, 30% their phone number and 14% (which is 14% too many) posted their home address, even though 77% know that what is posted online can’t be deleted and 80% have had a conversation with their parents on how to stay safe online
  • Social media friends are not always friendly – 52% have gotten into a fight because of social media, 50% have gotten into trouble at home or at school and 49% have regretted posted something.
  • Our kids are still hiding things from us – Although 90% believe their parents trust them to do what is right online, 45% would change their online behavior if they knew their parents were watching, 53% close or minimize their web browsers when their parents walk into the room and 50% clear the history of their online activity

Alarmingly, 24% said that they would not know what to do in the event of cyberbullying (how about stay away from the bully’s page and block the bully from your page?). A whopping 87% have witnessed cyberbullying and 26% have been victims themselves.

So with all these, how do we ensure we help our kids stay can enjoy the benefits of being online, while staying safe online. Here’s my top tips:

  • Establish rules: Parents should establish pinpointed rules about computer activities including sites the kids can visit and what is and isn’t appropriate behavior online, including the fact that online is forever.
  • Check in: Kids should be told to immediately report cyberbullying. whether they are witnessing it or being a victim.
  • Meet their “friends”: If it’s not possible to meet that person in person, then your child shouldn’t be chatting with them online.
  • Learn their technology: You should know more about the various devices that your kids use than your kids do, not the other way around.
  • Get their passwords: Parents should have full access to their kids’ devices and social media accounts at all times; they need the passwords.
  • Have security software on all their devices: Make sure all your kids’ devices and yours have comprehensive security software, like McAfee LiveSafe™ service.

Or you can just relegate your kids to their rooms and never let them out—like I’ve told my girls. Just kidding. But on a serious note – parents, it’s time to make this a priority, for you and your kids.

To join the conversation online, use #TeensNScreens or follow @McAfeeConsumer or like McAfee on Facebook.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  Disclosures.

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