Parents in the United States are still the primary gatekeepers and managers of their teens’ internet experience. As discussed earlier in the report, parents are the most often cited source of advice and the biggest influence on teens’ understanding of appropriate and inappropriate digital behavior. Parents are also responsible for keeping their teens safe online and offline and have a number of tools at their disposal to do so.
There are a variety of approaches to engaging with teens on the topic of online safety. Parents can talk to their teens about safe and risky online practices and about appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Parents can also answer questions that teens have and give advice in response to questions. They can also take concrete steps to monitor or check up on their teens’ online activities, including the relatively low-tech techniques of checking which websites a teen has visited, viewing his or her social media profiles, or friending him or her on a social network. This monitoring might also include use of parental controls on the computer or cell phone that a teen uses.
In this study, we asked parents (and often teens as well) about whether or not they engaged in the following actions:
- Talked with you/your child about ways to use the internet and cell phones safely
- Talked with you/your child about ways to behave toward other people online or on the phone
- Talked with you/your child about what you/he or she does on the internet
- Talked with you/your child about what kinds of things should and should not be shared online or on a cell phone
- Checked to see what information was available online about your child
- Checked your social network site profile
- Checked which websites you/your child visited
- Friended your child on social media
- Used parental controls or other means of blocking, filtering or monitoring your/your child’s online activities
- Used parental controls to restrict your/your child’s use of your/his or her cell phone.
In this study, we find that parents are more likely to talk with teens about digital safety and behavior issues, and are somewhat less likely to take a more hands-on approach to restrict or monitor their child. Both parents and teens confirm these tendencies.