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Parents keep tabs on digital teens

News, 11 January 2016

WASHINGTON DC: American parents tend to take a proactive approach to monitoring what their teenage children do online, but they are less likely to use parental control tools to block or restrict activity, a new survey has revealed.

More than 1,000 parents of teenagers aged 13 to 17 were questioned by the Pew Research Center in two polls conducted in September to October 2014 and February to March 2015.

The combined results showed that 61% of parents said they have checked which website their teens have visited while 60% have checked their social media profile.

Nearly half (48%) have looked through their children's text messages and phone call records while almost two-thirds (65%) have at some point taken away their teen's mobile phone or internet privileges as a punishment.

In addition, nearly half (48%) of parents know the password to their teen's email account, 43% know the password to their mobile phone while 35% know the password to at least one of their teen's social media accounts.

However, despite such evidence of parents adopting a hands-on approach, it seems they are more hesitant about using technology to track their children's online behaviour.

Just 39% of parents reported using parental controls for blocking, filtering and monitoring their teen's online activities while only 16% said their used parental controls to restrict mobile phone or internet usage.

The same proportion (16%) said they used monitoring tools on their teen's mobile phone to track their location.

Encouragingly, the vast majority of parents have talked with their teen about how to behave on the web, including what is appropriate to share online (94%), what constitutes appropriate online behaviour towards others (92%) and what is appropriate content for teens to view online (95%).

Mothers were more likely than fathers to report talking frequently with their teen about appropriate online and offline behaviour, the report established.

But, notably, parents from less affluent households were found to be more likely than those from higher-income households to have these regular conversations.

And Hispanic parents (51%) were found to be more likely than white (32%) or black (32%) parents to speak frequently with their teen about their online behaviour towards others.

Data sourced from Pew Research Center; additional content by Warc staff