Watch out, digital teens: Your parents may be watching!

Tough time to be raising a kid in the digital jungle.

With smartphones practically a required fashion accessory for any self-respecting middle-schooler, and older teens being sucked into adolescent America’s obsession with being online all the time, parents face a brutal dilemma: On the one hand, they want to allow and encourage their children to explore the digital world and enjoy the social-media interactions that are now a rite of passage for kids growing up in what feels a bit like one huge Apple Store. On the other hand, parents fear, and rightfully so, the darker side of the Internet, where kids can easily be bullied, taken advantage of, or shamed in any number of ways by their misguided or downright mean classmates.

A new survey of parents of teens by the Pew Research Center reveals that a sizable share of these adults is employing a whole range of tricks and tools to ensure their kids thrive, but also survive, online.

The introduction to the study gets right to the point: Parents have “voiced concerns about the behaviors teens engage in online, the people with whom they interact and the personal information they make available.”

The survey, which included parents of kids 13-17 years old, had some interesting findings:

  • Digital technology has become so central to teens’ lives that a significant share of parents now employ a new tool to enforce family rules: “digitally grounding” misbehaving kids. Some 65% of parents have taken their teen’s cellphone or internet privileges away as a punishment.
  • Parents often have rules in place about how often and when their teen can go online. Some 55% of parents say they limit the amount of time or times of day their teen can be online.

The study offers a compelling view into this under-the-radar world of digital-monitoring:

  • 61% of parents say they have checked which websites their teen visits.
  • 60% have checked their teen’s social media profiles.
  • 56% have friended or followed their teen on Facebook, Twitter or some other social media platform.
  • 48% have looked through their teen’s phone call records or text messages.

Kids reading this must be cringing by now. But wait, there’s more:

In addition, nearly half (48%) of parents know the password to their teen’s email account, while 43% know the password to their teen’s cellphone and 35% know the password to at least one of their teen’s social media accounts.

Here’s a snapshot:

65% of parents have “digitally grounded” their teen while parents of younger teens are more likely to limit web use


Photo by Frankie Frost/Marin Independent Journal

 

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