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Survey Says: You Probably Don’t Know What Your Teen Is Doing Online

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano

Photography by Photo Via Screenagers

We all know the lives of today’s teens are synonymous with tech, but do you know exactly what your big kids are doing while online? According to a brand-new survey by Common Sense Media and Survey Monkey, the answer is…probably not. Earlier this fall, the two organizations polled nearly 900 teens (aged 14-17) and over 3,000 parents of teens to come up with their fresh findings below.

Parents feel they know what teens are doing online, but teens don’t think so: More than half of parents with teenagers age 14 to 17 say they are “extremely” or “very aware” of what their kids are doing online; just 30 percent of teens say their parents are “extremely” or “very aware” of what they’re doing online.

Parents are tracking their teens more than teens know: 26 percent of parents say they use a tracking or monitoring device or service to learn what their teens are doing online, while only 15 percent of kids think their parents do so.

Teens are more honest than their parents give them credit for: 34 percent of parents believe their teen has hidden online accounts, but only 27 percent of teens say they do.

Parents are most nervous about Snapchat: Snapchat is the app parents are most concerned about (29 percent), much more than Facebook (16 percent). Only 6 percent of parents are nervous about Instagram. Some parents aren’t nervous at all about the apps their teens use; Twenty percent say that “no apps and websites are concerning.”

Older parents are less aware of what their teens are doing online: Younger parents are more likely to say that they are more aware of what their teens are doing online. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of parents age 18 to 34 say they are “extremely” or “very aware” of what their teens are doing online; under half of parents 55 and older say the same.

Facebook and Twitter aren’t cool: More than three-quarters of teens use Instagram and Snapchat, but just half use Facebook and fewer use Twitter.

Parents follow their kids on Facebook, but not much on other platforms: A large majority of teens who use Facebook are friends with their parents on the platform. Fewer of those who use Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter follow or are friends with their parents on those platforms.

If the results above cause concern, Common Sense urges parents to review guidelines on how to keep your kids safe online, set up parental controls, and double-check the privacy settings on all of your devices. You can also read up on last year’s Common Sense Census that looks at the habits of parents of tweens and teens for a deeper dive on the current behaviors and worries of your fellow plugged-in parents.

In the meantime, be sure to check out our pieces on the must-watch Screenagers documentary, as well as the new “rules” of healthy screen time habits, to help wrap your head around the Wild West-like current state of tech-savvy parenting.

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