Teens adept at hiding from parents online

ESTHER HAN
Last updated 17:10 28/07/2014
123rf.com

TABULATED: About 70 per cent of children aged between eight and 17 said their parents did not know about their internet activities.

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Most youngsters believe their parents are oblivious to their web activities, while some admit to making fake social media profiles and fudging browser histories to deceive tech-savvy ones, a new report shows.

Seventy per cent of children aged between 8 and 17 said their parents did not know about all their internet activities, a survey involving 1000 tweens and teens by cyber security firm McAfee shows.

The same number said they had attempted to hide their online deeds, with nearly half clearing their browser history or using the private mode, a third hiding or deleting files, and a tenth creating extra social media accounts to fool their parents.

McAfee chief technology officer Sean Duca said too many parents falsely believed they were the technology leaders in their family.

“If you ask most families: ‘How did you set up your wireless network at home? They’ll say: ‘my son, my daughter did it’,” he said. “Kids are the digital natives, they are the ones that can easily set up and use the technology. They're ahead.”

The top online fear for tweens, aged 8 to 12, was cyberbullying. Teenagers, aged 13 to 17, were more concerned about their computers being hacked, losing privacy, and losing data.

Of all surveyed, 80 per cent had witnessed cyberbullying – a steep increase of 56 per cent a year ago. Nearly 40 per cent identified themselves as victims, while 15 per cent admitted to being perpetrators.

Jeremy Blackman, a senior cyber safety specialist at the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, said cyberbullying was increasing as online socialisation became the norm.

“Of those who’ve been bullied, one in five has been online, and one in four has been offline. But over the last five years there’s been a natural shift as kids spend more time in online communities,” he said.

In a positive sign, more children compared to last year indicated they would tell an adult if they saw online bullying.

"There's a heightened awareness about it, and programs like eSmart try to make a cultural change at the school level, so kids feel comfortable reporting it," said Mr Blackburn, who will be speaking at the National Centre Against Bullying conference next month.

Also, 83 per cent said they respected their parents’ guidance about online behaviour and 90 per cent said their parents trusted them to make the right decisions.

They also prioritised privacy and safety, with most saying they only engaged with people they knew in real life and adjusted privacy settings.

Justin Coulson, a parenting expert and father of five girls, said concerned parents should not spy, which could break trust and lead to the “burying of unwanted behaviour”.

“Parents should say to children, we’re going to have lots and lots of conversations about cyber safety because we’re concerned about your digital reputation. We’re going to bring trust into the relationship, and we’re going to ask for periodic access,” he said.

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