Bangalore: McAfee released "The Secret Life of Teens", a survey conducted online by Harris Interactive from May 4 to May 17. The study surveyed 955 U.S. teen citizens between the age group of 13-17 years and reveals the online behavior of American teens and areas of concern for parents. Results were weighted as needed for age, gender, race or ethnicity, and other key variables. Overall data in this report is representative of U.S. tweens and teens between the age group of 10-17 years.
"Keeping kids safe no longer only means teaching them about the dangers of alcohol or how to deal with a school bully," said Tracy Mooney, mother of three and McAfee Chief Cyber Security Mom. "This report is a wake-up call to the real dangers our teens face when they make themselves vulnerable online. As a mom, it worries me that kids aren't practicing safe 'street smarts' when they are online."
Harris Interactive conducted an online study on behalf of McAfee and revealed that despite news headlines, teens are providing more information than they should with strangers. 69 percent of 13-17 year olds have updated their status on social networking sites to include their physical location. 28 percent of teens chat with people they don't know in the offline world. Girls are more likely than boys to chat with people online that they don't know in the offline world and 13-15 year old girls are more likely than boys the same age to have given a description of what they look like.
"Kids know not to talk to strangers. It's one of the first lessons you teach them. But online, there's a sense of trust and anonymity, so kids let their guard down," said Mooney. "Kids would never hand out their name and address to a stranger in the real world, so it's alarming to see how many kids do that very thing online."
Cyberbullying has made media headlines several times this year, with tales of teens and tweens harassing each other online with tragic consequences. One in three teens knows someone who has had mean or hurtful information posted about them online like sending anonymous emails, spreading rumors online, forwarding private information without someone's permission or purposely posting mean or hurtful information about someone online. 14 percent of 13-17 year olds admit to having engaged in some form of cyberbullying behavior in 2010. 22 percent say they wouldn't know what to do if they were cyberbullied.
Teens have more options to get online than ever before. "It's almost impossible to keep up with how my kids get online," continued Mooney. "It's not like keeping the home computer in the living room is the answer anymore. You have to educate your kids to be safe while they're accessing the Web from their friends' houses, or on their phone away from my supervision. 87 percent of teens go online somewhere other than at home. 54 percent access from their friends' or relatives' houses. 30 percent of teens access the Web through a phone and 21 percent through a video game system. 23 percent of kids go online anywhere with an open Wi-Fi signal.
Approximately two in five teens say they don't tell their parents what they do while they are online and that they would change their online behavior if they knew their parents were watching. In an effort to further conceal online behavior, teens admit that they or minimize the browser when their parents enter the room, clear the browser history when they are done using the computer, hide what they do online from parents.
While most teens use the Internet for research and communicating with friends, 62 percent of teens also typically view or download some kind of media online which can lead to dangerous downloads and other online threats that put the family computer at risk. More than 27 percent accidentally allowed a virus, spyware, or other software to infect the family computer. Almost 46 percent of teens admit to downloading music or videos from a free service, which is much more likely to infect the family PC with everything from worms, viruses, ad-ware, spyware, or backdoors that allow people on the Internet to access the computer. 16 percent of 16-17 year old boys have downloaded x-rated content.
Mooney continues, "Like me, most parents think they have a handle on what kind of online content their children are exploring. This report makes it clear that we need to be much more involved with helping our kids make the right decisions online. Education is key."