Parents need to be vigilant with teens online, says McAfee


by Claire Vanner| 10 February 2014

Safer Internet Day on February 11 encourages parents to be wary of teens' online risk taking.

A report from McAfee and the Anti-Bullying Alliance has found that 14- and 15-year-old teenagers are most likely to adopt risk-taking behaviour and overshare online; putting themselves in potentially harmful situations and at risk of cyber-bullying.

The findings of the study, released in the run up to Safer Internet Day on February 11, revealed that 14-15 year olds spend more time on social media than any other age group, with a fifth spending over four hours logged on every day.

These teens risk making themselves more vulnerable to abusive and bullying behaviours by digitally exposing themselves through sharing too much personal information online; 11% had shared revealing videos or photos of themselves, 1 in 10 had seen an inappropriate, revealing or pornographic image of someone they know online and 7% admitted to 'liking' an unkind image of someone they know.

Nearly a quarter (23%) of 14-15 year olds surveyed had seen a porn image online of someone they didn't know and 19% confessed to visiting a website that their parents would not approve of. In addition, over half of 14-15 year olds surveyed also confessed to hiding their online activity from parents, with nearly a quarter (24%) actively deleting their browsing history.

"Protecting your child online is an absolute minefield, with easy access to the net through smartphones, tablets and computers, parents need to strike a balance between social freedom and security for teens," said McAfee Cyber Security Expert, Raj Samani.

"This report highlights the growing need for parents to have frank conversations with their children around threats online, net etiquette and the nature of cyber-bullying, as well as ensuring that household devices are as effectively secured as possible from questionable content."

With 14-15 year olds such prolific users of the internet, it is perhaps unsurprising that findings show this age group are putting themselves in potentially harmful situations by engaging in inappropriate behaviours online; and are most likely to access dangerous content and be exposed to cruel or mean behaviour.

The same age group displayed a need to be guided on online etiquette; to clearly understand the difference between 'banter' and bullying; only 23% were able to see that their cruel and abusive comments may be considered mean to the person on the receiving end, with -the same number seeing these comments as 'just banter'.

Luke Roberts, national coordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance said: "The digital world is one inhabited by most young people on a daily basis, yet they are clearly struggling to understand online etiquettes, what appropriate online behaviour is, or how to keep safe.

"By making private information public property, young people are exposing themselves to comment and attention from others, without necessarily having the skills to deal with potential situations which might arise from these online interactions."

He added: "As adults it is our responsibility to teach children and young people digital skills and set boundaries so they are able to realise the huge benefits and opportunities that the internet offers in terms of accessing information and making friends, but also ensures that they are safe and free from being bullied both online and offline."

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