A new survey of Internet use by tweens (10 to 13 year olds) revealed that parents are doing a good job monitoring their children’s online behavior, including talking to them and setting guidelines and restrictions for Internet use on home computers. Yet there is room for improvement, especially when it comes to keeping tweens safer when they use mobile and other connected devices.
Parents used to only have to worry about monitoring the home computer to keep their kids safer online. But today, Internet use is doubling every two years, and kids have access to the Internet through mobile devices, such as smartphones, handheld games, game consoles and tablets. The average family uses five Internet-enabled devices at home.
The Tween Internet Safety Survey, commissioned by Cox Communications in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), found that nearly all tweens (95 percent) use mobile devices to go online.
Mobile devices and gaming consoles are widely used by tweens to access web content, and the survey revealed a lack of guidelines and controls on these devices that can leave tweens vulnerable. While 68 percent of parents surveyed said they monitored their child’s Internet behavior on mobile devices, the survey showed that only 1 in 5 (17 percent) actually use basic parental control features such as age appropriate web content filtering on smartphones, tablets and game consoles.
“We applaud the efforts parents are making to keep their kids safe online, but we all must remain vigilant and proactive when it comes to knowing what children are accessing on the web and the devices they are using,” said Ernie Allen, NCMEC president and CEO. “Educating parents about the potential risks their children face online and empowering them to take simple preventive steps is critical to helping keep families safe.”
Unfamiliarity with parental controls and monitoring on mobile devices
Parents and tweens acknowledged that fewer controls exist on mobile devices and gaming consoles than on computers. The survey revealed that many parents are not using the monitoring software and parental control tools available on their tweens’ mobile devices because they are not familiar with how they work.
- 83 percent of tweens use a gaming console to access the Internet at home.
- 51 percent of the parents in the survey said they monitor their child’s Internet behavior on gaming consoles.
- 65 percent of parents said they were aware of and knew how to use parental controls on mobile devices and gaming consoles with Internet access.
Do parents really know what kids are doing online?
The survey results also showed a gap between what tweens are doing online and what their parents believe they are doing.
- 82 percent of parents surveyed considered themselves very knowledgeable about what their tween does online, and for the most part, believed their tween practices safe online behavior.
- However, many of the tweens surveyed admitted to engaging in risky online behavior, including breaking the rules, accessing inappropriate content, and covering their tracks as they go; often unbeknownst to parents.
- 44 percent admitted they’ve looked at or watched something online that their parents wouldn’t approve of (Only 28 percent of parents were aware of this).
- 34 percent have lied to parents about what they’ve done online. (Only 18 percent of parents were aware of this.)
Kids continue to face risks online
Many children are facing risks online without their parents’ knowledge.
- 42 percent have received a personal message from someone they didn’t know. (Only 22 percent of parents were aware of this.)
- 17 percent have received an email or online message with pictures or words that made them feel uncomfortable. (Only 7 percent of parents were aware of this.)
- 12 percent have already been bullied by someone online. (Only 6 percent of parents were aware of this.)
What’s a parent to do?
Parents should keep talking to their tweens about Internet safety, but they should also use parental controls, especially on mobile devices that can be taken beyond the watchful eyes of parents. Parents also should visit www.cox.com/takecharge for tips they can use to help them take charge of what their kids see and don’t see online.