Do You Know What Your Kids Are Hiding?

Many of you as parents may think, not much when asked this question. But in reality, it’s probably a lot more than you think. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that in McAfee’s 2013 study Digital Deception: Exploring the Online Disconnect between Parents and Kids that examines the online habits and interests of tweens, teens, and young adults, finds there is a significant disconnect between what they do online and what their parents believe they do.

The phrase “liar liar, pants on fire” comes to mind when I hear this topic and the phrase applies to both parents and kids. Parents are lying to themselves if they think they know what their kids are doing online, since 80% said they would not know how to find out what their kids are doing online and 62% do not think that their kids can get into deep trouble online. As for our kids, let’s face it–kids sometimes lie. The study found that 69% of kids say that they know how to hide what they do online from their parents and disturbingly 44% of them cleared their browser history or used private browsing sessions to hide their activity from their parents.

While youth understand the Internet is dangerous, they still engage in risky (and sometimes illegal) behavior. Not only are they hiding this activity from their parents in a variety of ways, but almost half (46%) admit that they would change their behavior if they knew their parents were paying attention.

  • 86% of youth believe that social sites are safe and are aware that sharing personal details online carry risk, yet kids admit to posting personal information such as their email addresses (50%) and phone numbers (32%)
  • 48% have viewed content they know their parents would disapprove of
  • 29% of teens and college aged youth have accessed pirated music or movies online

Adding to this problem is how clueless parents are regarding technology and their kids’ online lives. 54% of kids say their parents don’t have time to check up on the kids’ online behavior and 42% say their parents don’t care what the kids do online. And even worse, only 17% of parents believe that the online world is as dangerous as the offline world and 74% of parents just admit defeat and claim that they do not have the time or energy to keep up with their kids and simply hope for the best.

So how do you bridge this divide?
Parents, you must stay in-the-know. Since your kids have grown up in an online world, they may be more online savvy than you, but giving up isn’t an option. You must challenge yourselves to become familiar with the complexities of the online universe and stay educated on the various devices your kids are using to go online.

Here are some things you can do as parents to get more tech savvy:

  • Get device savvy: Whether you’re using a laptop, desktop, Mac, tablet, mobile, wired Internet, wireless, or software, learn it. No excuses. No more, “My kids know more than I do,” or “All I know how to do is push that button-thingy.” Take the time to learn enough about the devices your kids are using.
  • Get social: One of the best ways to get savvy is to get social. By using your devices to communicate with the people in your life, you inevitably learn the hardware and software. Keep in mind that “getting social” doesn’t entail exposing all your deepest, darkest secrets, or even telling the world you just ate a tuna sandwich, but it is a good way to learn a key method that your kids communicate.
  • Manage your/their online reputation: Whether you are socially active or not, whether you have a website or not, there are plenty of websites that know who you are, that are either discussing you or listing your information in some fashion. Google yourself and your kids to see what’s being said. Teaching your kids what is and is not appropriate online is a must these days. And as a good rule of thumb
  • Get secure: There are more ways to scam people online than ever before. Your security intelligence is constantly being challenged, and your hardware and software are constant targets. Invest in comprehensive security solutions that include antivirus, but also protects your kids, identity and data for ALL your devices like McAfee LiveSafe™service.

Or you can be like me and tell your kids that once they turn 10 they will be locked in a box in my basement until they turn 30. Just kidding (maybe). But seriously, parents – it’s time to make this a priority, for you and your kids.

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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