February 23, 2016 —

Every month, we keep you informed on the latest studies and research in our “Not My Teen” blog series. Today, we’re looking at the results of a study involving parents, teen and digital monitoring. 

Digital connectivity has become a prominent factor in parenting. Parents seem to struggle with finding the right balance between allowing teens to have their privacy, while still being conscious of their behavior online. However, a recent Pew Research Center survey found that parents are, in fact, monitoring their teen’s online lives in a variety of ways and encouraging their teens to use technology responsibly.  

While there are many monitoring technologies available to parents, personal monitoring is still the most common method parents use to monitor their teen’s behavior online. Specifically, 61% of parents say they have checked which websites their teen has visited and 60% report checking their teen’s social media profiles. 

When looking at parental monitoring technologies: Only 39% of parents say they turn to parental controls or other technological tools to block, filter or monitor their teen’s online activities. 

The study goes into more detail to show that parents of younger teens tend to be more watchful of their teen’s online behavior. For example, parents of younger teens (13-14) are more likely to turn on parental controls as compared to parents of older teens (15-17). Parents of younger teens are also more likely to know the passwords to their teen’s email, cellphone and social media accounts. 

The study also addressed how parents talk to teens about acceptable behavior online and offline with the latter showing to be more frequent. Almost all parents (98%) report speaking with their teen about appropriate behavior offline (at school, at home and in social lives) while 94% have conversations about appropriate online behavior. 

Many parents take a proactive approach to monitoring their teens’ behavior online by actually friending or following their teenage child on Facebook, Twitter or other social media platforms. This behavior is especially common on Facebook, which is the most-used social networking site for parents and teens alike (72% of parents and 71% of teens report that they are Facebook users). Overall, 44% of all parents indicate that they are Facebook friends with their teen while only 9% of parents indicate that they follow their teen on Twitter.

Although it may difficult to be fully aware of your teenager’s behavior online and offline, it is important that parents maintain an open dialogue with their teens. We think this quote from KJ Dell’Antonia of The New York Times Motherlode blog sums it up nicely: “When experts in technology and adolescent behavior weigh in on the question of how to monitor teenagers online, the consistent message is that talk is more important than tools.”

You can read more about the survey and KJ Dell’Antonia’s perspective here. Please feel free to share your thoughts and feedback in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you!