Back to School: For Parents and the Internet, Ignorance is Not Bliss

FYI | Aug 6, 2012

Today’s guest Back to School post is from Davin Tang, youth worker and second-year Fuller MDiv student.

The Internet is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it offers access to people and information at a level unparalleled in history.

On the other hand, unbridled online usage can lead to unhealthy habits and negative consequences in real life.

As the Internet has become ubiquitous to daily living for adults, it has also become central to teenagers’ lives. Especially with the rise in internet access on mobile phones. In a recent release called The Digital Divide, McAfee Software Company revealed insights from their study of teen online behavior and parental knowledge.

The statistics are staggering:

  • On average, teens spend about five hours a day online, while parents think their kids spend two hours a day online.
  • 43% of teens intentionally access simulated violence online (only 15% of parents are aware)
  • 32% of teens intentionally access nude content or porn online (only 12% of parents are aware)
  • 12% of teens met with someone in person that they met online (4% of parents are aware of this)
  • 70% of teens have hidden their online behavior from their parents
  • 50% of teens would actually change their online behavior if they knew their parents were watching

Unbridled, the online world presents easy opportunities for teens to establish negative habits. And it’s all too easy for a teenager to intentionally hide these activities from parents.

Is this ignorance bliss?

Half of teens claimed they would actually change their online behavior if they knew their parents were watching. The key for parents is to find healthy ways to facilitate transparency with their kids without becoming overbearing.

One healthy step in which parents can facilitate this transparency is by engaging their teenager in ongoing dialogue about their online habits. Parents can set up both responsibility and accountability for online behavior. Youth leaders can also provide a safe environment for students to disclose what they’re really doing online.

As students head back to school in the coming weeks, how are you talking with them about their online lives?

FYI

The Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) exists to translate RESEARCH into RESOURCES that TRANSFORM youth and family ministry.


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