Tweens, Teens and Technology – Parenting in the Online Age

The catchphrase “Do you know where your children are?” was a popular public service announcement on American television, but despite your children being under your roof – do you know where they are in the digital world?

Sydney, 28 July 2014: Leaders in Heels were invited to a media event to discuss the findings of the 2014 Australian Teens, Tweens and Technology research by McAfee, part of Intel Security. The research looked into the online behavior of teens and tweens – from how they use apps to their opinions on cyberbullying and current online trends.

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“Teens and tweens are comfortable operating in the online world, yet the risks have never been greater and they need to understand the consequences of their online behavior”–Melanie Duca, APAC Consumer Marketing Director, McAfee.

The Research

1013 teens and tweens of an equal gender split and representative of all Australian demographics were surveyed. McAfee’s research found that 81% of Australia’s youth have witnessed cyberbullying-a huge jump of 56% from 2013. This research, in its second year, aims to educate tweens and teens on the impact that risky behavior has on their privacy, reputation and social media experience.

The research found that YouTube is the number one social site across all age groups, with Facebook the most likely to be visited daily. However, new social media sites such as Keek, a video-based social networking site, Yik, an anonymous messaging site, and Snapchat, a photo-messaging platform where users can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. These sent photographs and videos are known as “Snaps”. Users set a time limit for how long recipients can view their Snaps (as of April 2014, the range is from 1 to 10 seconds. There’s also Kik, a smartphone messenger with a built-in browser, and Keek, a social networking service that allows its users to upload video status updates, which are called “keeks”, have gained quick acceptance across all age groups.

Facebook has seen a spike in underage users, with 31% of 8-9 years old, compared with 26% in 2013 and 60% of 10-12 year olds admitting to having a Facebook profile, despite the minimum age being 13 years.

The survey also revealed that 40% of teens and tweens are experiencing cyberbullying.

Life Education Australia identified a huge demand for cybersafety and partnered with McAfee to educate primary aged children in cybersafety and cyber ethics. Coincidentally, my child was participating in the Life Education bCyberwise programme at school today – and she found it reinforced the advice we have given our children at home (phew). Their programme is aligned with the Australian curriculum and offers a safe learning environment, empowering children to make safe choices.

“Our bCyberwise and It’s Your Call programmes, developed in conjunction with McAfee, teach teens and tweens about being safe cyber citizens and how to respect others online, with the focus on prevention, as well as teaching valuable skills that promote social and emotional development, positive relationships, self-respect and safe-decision-making online.”–Robyn Richardson, Life Education National Programme Development Manager

Generation Like

What the research also found is that drive for attention and acceptance, as well as the growing comfort level of young people with digital media, is leading to them letting their guard down and engaging in risky behaviours. Nearly half (48%) have chatted online with a stranger and one in five have met someone in person that they first met online.

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Parenting expert Dr Justin Coulsen explained that the pre-frontal cortex, where our higher-level thinking occurs, does not fully develop until the early 20s for females and mid 20s for males. This explains the impulsivity and “thoughtlessness” of our youth, who thrive on the social media currency of likes, shares and retweets to prove their popularity amongst peers.

“We know that teens and tweens are willing to sacrifice privacy and cybersafety for the gratification they feel when their social network responds positively”–Dr Justin Coulsen

Parental guidance

Parents need to guide experiences. Dr Coulson made the wonderful analogy that we wouldn’t give our children car keys and say off you go – drive. We ensure they learn to drive a vehicle properly, and once they attain their provisional license, there are still restrictions on driving behaviours. Eight in ten teens and tweens said they respect guidance from parents on personal decisions regarding social media and that their parents trust them to make the right decisions.

However, parents aren’t fully across their children’s online activity, with 70% saying their parents know only some of what they do online, as they proactively hide what they do online from their parents. Half said their parents can’t keep up with the technology. So parents, you need to up your tech cred. The key is monitoring, which means having a conversation with your children. Installing spyware is subversive.

Parents should establish an ongoing, non-confrontational dialogue with their children about this topic and continue to monitor their activities ,as well as stay up-to-date with advancements in technology and social networking .”–Alex Merton-McCann, McAfee Cybermum

Other survey highlights

Younger children fear being bullied online (27%), whereas teens are more fearful of losing their information (21%), being hacked (31%) and losing their privacy (23%).

Top Tips for Parents

  1. Connect with your kids. Talk to them about online risks and make sure the communication lines are always open.
  2. Learn the technology. Take the time to research the various devices and apps your children use. You want to know more than they do.
  3. Get Social. Stay knowledgeable about the latest social networks so you understand how it works.
  4. Reputation Management. Make sure your children are aware that anything they post online is permanent.
  5. Stay calm. If your children come to you with an online problem, do not over-react. Deal with it calmly and don’t threaten to take devices away, or they won’t feel confident seeking your help again.
  6. Be a model digital citizen yourself. If your children see you behaving inappropriately online, they’ll take that as a cue for their behavior.

Yolanda Floro

Yolanda is Leaders in Heels’ Social Media Editor.

You can read more about McAfee here.

You can read more about Life Education Australia and McAfee’s bCyberwise programme here.