10 Ways Your Online Teenagers Are Fooling You

You’ve read all about the digital divide, but this is something different: how your teenage kids are keeping you from knowing what they are really doing online. (Disclosure: my son graduated from college four years ago, so he can do whatever he wants online.)

McAfee’s 2012 Teen Internet Behavior study gathered data from interviews with more than 2,000 parents and kids (ages 13-17) and found that teens are not only engaging in risky behavior, but are also skillfully hiding it from mom and dad.

More than three in four parents expressed confidence they know how to find out what their teen is doing online, and half of parents live under the assumption that their teen tells them everything he/she does online. In reality, over two in three teens say their parents don’t need to know everything they do online and half of teens would actually change their online behavior if they knew their parents were watching.

According to the survey, teens in this age group are spending an average of five hours a day online, but parents only think that they’re on the Internet for three.

What we know for sure is that kids  between 8 and 18 spend almost 8 hours on their electronic devices every day.

Parents are trying to stay ahead of their kids’ behaviors by using security measures, implementing parental controls and even using GPS technology to keep track of their kids, but 23 percent of parents are “overwhelmed” by technology and are not monitoring their kids at all.

From Parenting:

Despite parents’ best efforts, more than 70 percent of teens have found methods to bypass this monitoring. McAfee lists the following 10 methods teens are using to keep their online behavior hidden from their parents:

– Clear the browser history (53%)
– Close/minimize browser when parent walked in (46%)
– Hide or delete IMs or videos (34%)
– Lie or omit details about online activities (23%)
– Use a computer your parents don’t check (23%)
– Use an internet-enabled mobile device (21%)
– Use privacy settings to make certain content viewable only by friends (20%)
– Use private browsing modes (20%)
– Create private email address unknown to parents (15%)
– Create duplicate/fake social network profiles (9%)

Are you the parent of online teens, or preteens? Have you talked to them lately about online safety?

And let’s think about this, parents. What does it say that this many kids are trying to hide their behavior from their parents? What do you think?

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Photo Credit: tapasparida


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

no shock. Kids have been trying to lead their own lives for centuries, and they always find ways to do so (some for the better, some not so much). Young teens should be monitored, but after 16? Let your children make decisions and learn from mistakes. Once they have a car and phone ect, there is much less you can do.

Paul H.
Paul H.5 years ago

Part of the reason that young people "hide" online, is because of the mistrust between parents and kids, fostered by paranoid news reports on a constant basis. Instead of showing and teaching our young to be safe online (and in person too), we've placed them in a form of cyber jail with constant surveillance (Big Brother is still watching you !!!), and we sit and wonder why they FIND ways to circumvent our every attempt....well, time is certainly on their side.

With few exceptions, I hid most of my social activities from my parents, and yet there was enough trust there that I KNEW the consequences of too much foolishness and the trouble such would surely bring. We kids were told not to leave the neighborhood, not to get into a car with anybody, not accept any drugs or alcohol, and to come home (or go to the police/fire station) if there was any trouble. Simple, no ?

We've gotten away from that, and into a total lockdown status. I used to think of school as jail, but today's kids really get the total experience. But hey, if we're to have a police state (as history warns us about) we must impress it upon a gullible generation. And that would be today's young people. We reap what we sew.

Lika S.
Lika P5 years ago

Of course they can fool adults. But being with a computer guy, we have tools that helps us spy on mine... Every thing pretty much gets a snapshot, and we can get a daily digest on it, and plus my hubby put on one of those where there is a back door to my son's computer that goes to his... There's no way to get past it.

Angie V.
Angie V5 years ago


ii q.
g d c5 years ago


Arild Warud

Thanks for the info.

Carl Oerke
Carl O5 years ago

The kids have grown up with computers and are often more proficinet than the adults. I started my niece on the computer when she was eighteen months old doing preschool education programs to give her a leg up on the competition. By three years old she would take the mouse out of my hand and tell me "I can do it faster and better Uncle Carl." So it comes as no surprise that the kids have discovered or been taught by their peers ways to circumvent their parents attempted watchfulness.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G5 years ago

Always nice to be made aware of the facts....

Kip A.
Kip A.5 years ago

Our teens have to regularly surrender their devices for review - and are explicitly forbidden to keep their passwords secret (which means that we can check in on them even when they don't think we are checking in on them). Sometimes this means reconciling the cell phone text message detail with chunks of missing messages on their phones - that they are explicitly NOT allowed to delete.

While they may pull one over on us here and there, we know how to check router website history, access times, and limit it or remove it all! Transgressions almost always come back to haunt them, so we know that MOST of the time spent online is actually accepted behavior, but the reality is that as children get older, one simply cannot control every aspect of their lives or ability to communicate with others short of locking them in the basement. Parents need to be able to slowly increase freedoms, while monitoring them and keeping them in check. Responsibility cannot simply be modeled. Natural consequences (grounded from phone and computer for a month, etc.) are often far more powerful when the rules are clear.

Sarah W.
Sarah W5 years ago

hopefully if they're smart enough to avoid being caught they're also smart enough to know when they're pushing the bounds of safety... It's a teen's job to hide stuff from their parents -that's what they do!