Parents have much to learn when it comes to their teens‘ online behaviors, according to a new national survey.
In the survey commissioned by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that helps parents navigate childrens media choices, 39 percent of teens reported they had posted something online they later regretted. But only 20 percent of parents said their child had ever done that.
Moreover, 28 percent of teens reported sharing information about themselves they wouldn’t normally share in public; 25 percent said they had created a false online identity; and 18 percent had pretended to be an adult while chatting with someone online. In each case, only about half that many parents said they were aware of such activity by their teen.
The study surveyed 1,103 teens age 13 to 18 and 1,002 parents nationwide. Margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.
About half of teens log into a social networking site, such as MySpace or Facebook, more than once a day; more than one in five check such sites more than 10 times a day, the study said.
“The big picture is clear: Kids‘ lives are fundamentally different today in terms of the way they communicate, socialize and learn because of being immersed in this 24/7 digital world,” said James P. Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, which is based in San Francisco.
What’s more, “there’s a disconnect between the way parents see this and the way kids see this,” he said. “There’s a real need for conversation on an ongoing basis.”
Deanna Eppers of Milford has felt such disconnection. A few years ago, her oldest daughter, now 19, had posted on Facebook “stuff that I would never want online,” including curse words and phone numbers.
“Other parents caught it and told me,” Eppers said. “Other people would say, ‘Hey, you might want to see what’s going on.’ ”
Eppers now has her own account and is a Facebook “friend” with her 15-year-old daughter, Joanna. Although Eppers can see what’s on her daughters page, she does not comment unless she spots something threatening.
In perusing the social networking site, Eppers said she is “shocked by the cyber bullying that I have seen.”
The Common Sense survey indicates 37 percent of teens have made fun of other students. Eighteen percent of teens said someone had posted a humiliating picture of them or had humiliated them online. Of those, 23 percent “got revenge doing something similar to them.”
Thirteen percent of teens said they had sent or posted naked or semi-naked photos or videos of themselves or others online.
Joanna Eppers, a sophomore at Milford High, was surprised to learn that 59 percent of teens reported making fun of teachers online. “Really? Oh gosh. I dont think I’ve ever done that,” she said.
While the online world presents challenges, it also provides teens with opportunities for rich interaction, Common Sense Media says.
Indeed, more than half of teens surveyed reported going online to support a cause or to post creative writing or artwork; 34 percent had volunteered for a nonprofit or charity, and 26 percent had participated in online study groups.