Report: Teens are confident in their ability to hide online content from parents

Posted at 4:58 PM, Sep 04, 2020

As we're all on screens now more than ever, new data suggests a difference in opinion between teens and their parents. Turns out, there's an increase in teens hiding their online activity from mom and dad.

“I think pretty early on my husband and I decided that it wasn’t for us,” Stephanie Murphy said, talking about devices.

Video games, iPads, Nintendo, you name it, she doesn't want it in her house. The 2nd grade teacher in New York City is also a busy mom of 4. Only her 13-year-old daughter has access to a device.

“She’s not the majority, she does have a phone we did give her one when she went into middle school for safety reasons,” Murphy said.

Murphy knows her family isn't the majority either. For the second year in a row, AT&T and Quadrant Strategies teamed up to conduct their "digital family poll."

“We do it to benchmark what teens are doing online, how are teens interacting online, and how are parents looking at the digital life of their kids,” said Nicole Anderson. She's the Assistant Vice President for Social Responsibility at AT&T. This year's data was interesting in comparison to last year, when there wasn't a pandemic.

“From last year to this year - parents actually feel more confident: 71% felt more confident than at any point they could see what their teens are doing online. They’re spending more time together so parents felt more confident. 'I can check anytime and see what they’re doing,'” Anderson said.

But, add that stat to the one they got from teens, who also felt more confident that they could do a better job at hiding things.

“Seeing that discontent made us want to double down saying we’ve got parental controls; we have resources you can use on the screen ready website,” Anderson said.

The poll, which focuses on teens, also found that parental controls made a difference. And not just an obvious one.

“The teens who do have parental controls on their devices reported that they’re happier; feel safer, more productive, and they’re able to follow their passions online and digitally more so then these teens who don’t have parental controls set,” Anderson explained.

We asked about those parental controls, and where one would even begin.

"You can set a time limit that your child spends on a device, it can screen by age what sites are appropriate and it can block certain programming depending on the device," Anderson said.

AT&T launched a new parental controls campaign using super heroes. She says the controls take away the fight between kids and their parents.

As for Stephanie Murphy, she says, “I’m going to be honest, they are going to search. I’m hoping I’m instilling that they come to me and ask me questions.”

She says she's armed and ready with answers and she also says, what's most important for her family is being present.

“When they were online, they’re near me. When they were working on their computers, they’re right next to me, when he finished it was to talk to his friends and he was in another room and I could hear them. They were never where they were so far that I couldn’t hear what they were doing,” Murphy said.

Murphy says, when and if that day comes, she'll launch parental controls. But for now, in these challenging times, remind yourself that no one has parenting down to a perfect science.

“Everyone is different and everyone is in a different situation. I’m not in a position to give advice, but I could just say that you do what’s best, they’re your children and you know them best.”

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