More U.S. teens hide online activity from parents: survey

NEW YORK Mon Jun 25, 2012 6:18pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - More and more teenagers are hiding their online activity from their parents, according to a U.S. survey of teen internet behavior released on Monday.

The survey, sponsored by the online security company McAfee, found that 70 percent of teens had hidden their online behavior from their parents in 2012, up from 45 percent of teens in 2010, when McAfee conducted the same survey.

"There's a lot more to do on the Internet today, which ultimately means there's a lot more to hide," said McAfee spokesman Robert Siciliano.

Siciliano cited the explosion of social media and the wider availability of ad-supported pornography as two factors that have led teens to hide their online habits. The increased popularity of phones with Internet capabilities also means that teens have more opportunities to hide their online habits, he said.

"They have full Internet access wherever they are at this point," Siciliano said.

The survey found that 43 percent of teens have accessed simulated violence online, 36 percent have read about sex online, and 32 percent went online to see nude photos or pornography.

The survey reported that teens use a variety of tactics to avoid being monitored by their parents. Over half of teens surveyed said that they had cleared their browser history, while 46 percent had closed or minimized browser windows when a parent walked into the room. Other strategies for keeping online habits from parents included hiding or deleting instant messages or videos and using a computer they knew their parents wouldn't check.

Meanwhile, the survey found that 73.5 percent of parents trust their teens not to access age-inappropriate content online. Nearly one quarter of the surveyed parents (23 percent) reported that they are not monitoring their children's online behaviors because they are overwhelmed by technology.

Siciliano said that is no excuse.

"Parents can put their foot down and they can get educated," he said.

"They can learn about the technology at hand. They can learn about their children's lives," Siciliano said.

Many of the parents surveyed were already doing just that, with 49 percent of parents using parental controls and 44 percent obtaining their children's email and social network passwords. Additionally, three in four parents said they've had a conversation about online safety with their kids.

The results were drawn from a nationwide online survey completed by 1,004 teens aged 13-17 and 1,013 parents, conducted May 4-29 by TRU of Chicago, a youth research company. Its margin of error was plus or minus 3 percent.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Eric Walsh)

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