Teen Online Behavior 2014

Teenager-Online-DangersLast week McAfee released their newest Teens and Screens study to help us understand exactly what our kids are doing online.

The report revealed some interesting findings about teens’ online habits.

Here are a few observations worth noting:

Teenagers Love Talking with Strangers:

  • 59% of teenagers engage with strangers online.
  • 1 in 12 meet the online stranger in real life.
  • 33% of teenagers feel more accepted online than in real life.

This report isn’t alone in their findings. Just a few weeks ago I blogged about the “social media irony”… the fact that social media is making kids less “social.” Young people are not only struggling with face-to-face communication, they also show a decline in intimate friendships. Many of today’s teens escape the drama of real life relationships and defer to their e-friends, where accountability and responsibility aren’t required, hence, the trend towards anonymity online.

So, when a large number of a teenager’s friends become e-friends, the next trend is…

Teens Overshare Personal Info:

  • 50% of teenagers post their email address online.
  • 30% of teenagers post their phone number.
  • 14% post their home address.

Parents aren’t having enough conversations about online safety… period. McAfee noted that 14% of kids sharing their home address is 14% too much. Parents need to make sure and share the danger of sharing personal info with strangers. And yes, if you haven’t met someone face-to-face… they are a stranger.

But even when parents have these conversations, sometimes…

Kids Hide Their Online Activity from Their Parents

  • 50% of kids surveyed admit to clearing the history of their online activity.
  • 45% of kids would change their online behavior if they new their parents were watching.
  • 53% close or minimize web browsers when their parents walk into the room.

Maybe that’s why apps like “Poof” are rising in popularity, allowing teens to hide icons and apps on their mobile devices. (More on this app and other harmful apps on our Youth Culture Window article on the subject)

So how should parents respond?
The key is conversations. Parents often think that strict rules and porn filters will do the trick. I’m not against either of these, but they need to be accompanied by real life conversations.

For example: instead of banning all apps, make your 13-year-old show you an app before downloading it. Google the app and see what experts are saying about it. If you download it, use the app with your kids. Don’t LIKE every one of their photos and become that creepy parent, but be present in their technology.

McAfee’s report gives parents advice that falls in line with what most experts are saying: learn their technology, create guidelines, meet their friends, and even get their passwords.

Many of you might remember some of these recommendations from my “Keeping Social Media Safe” post a few months ago where I listed the recommendations from several experts, including the doctors from the Journal PEDIATRICS.

Should-I-Smash-My-Kids-PhoneOr if you want a resource that holds your hand through the whole process, get the workbook that my friend Doug Fields and I wrote together, SHOULD I JUST SMASH MY KIDS’ PHONE? This book also includes a sample phone contract and a social media guide written by my friend and internet safety guru Adam McLane.

Do you know what your kids are browsing on their phones and other devices?

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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2 Responses to Teen Online Behavior 2014

  1. dan manns says:

    Thanks Jon for this great article. These stats are alarming! Makes me want to jump up right now, go grab a bunch of teens and do something outdoors, physical and fun – oh, and make sure that we are far away from smart phones, tablets & wi-fi. It’s time for them to escape the 2D world of screens and monitors and see what’s happening out there in the 3D world we call reality! Thanks for sounding the alarm and informing parents of the urgency of having conversations with their kids about online safety. It’s obvious that kids aren’t concerned enough on their own and they won’t take the precautions necessary for their own online well being and safety without parents involvement. This article will definitely be an eye opener and motivation for parents who read it! I know it was for me.

  2. Jeff Berg says:

    After 12 years of fulltime ministry I would like to hear what we are doing for cellphones not desk top computers? Most if not virtually all students I know use their phones/iPods to view inappropriate things not computers!! Side note, I don’t know one student who actually uses and checks an email!! 😉