A new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that most US parents are concerned about their kids’ online privacy and also about how much advertisers are able to learn about their kids’ online behavior. The findings are based on telephone interviews of 802 US teens and their parents in late Q2 2012.
The survey identified four areas of concern:
- Interaction with Strangers Online
- Reputation Management
- Information Available to Advertisers
- Impact on Future Opportunities
Parents were most worried (“very concerned”) about interaction with strangers online, for obvious reasons of child safety. Nearly 50 percent were also very concerned about their children’s online reputations. However 81 percent were very concerned or somewhat concerned about the information regarding their kids available to advertisers.
This 81 percent expressing at least some concern about data mining and tracking by publishers and advertisers is actually higher than all the other categories. Specifically, more affluent parents and parents of younger teens are the most likely to be concerned about these advertising issues. However parents of younger teens express more concern across the board.
In response to these concerns parents took a variety of actions. Those included using available parental controls, online privacy discussions with kids, dialing up social network privacy settings and searching for kids’ names online to see what shows up. Parents were also motivated to join social media sites in part to monitor what’s going on with their kids.
Pew says that “Among all parents who have a child between the ages of 12‐17, 66 percent now say they use a social networking site, up from 58 percent in 2011.” In addition, a whopping 80 percent of social media parents have “friended” their kids on social media sites. And half of kid-connected social media parents “have commented or responded directly to something that was posted to their child’s profile or account” according to Pew.
For their part teens appear ambivalent about being connected with their parents though most allow it out of a sense of complying with familial expectations or obligations. There are many more detailed findings and data, which you can access here.
Child safety and online privacy are serious issues. However the discussion about kids and parents being friends on Facebook reminded me of this amusing “SNL” skit about the phenomenon.