A CNN report on a survey done by the digital security company McAfee (which reads more like an ad than a report – what happened to investigative reporting?) has some startling statistics. According to the CNN sanitization of the survey:
- Clear 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 e-mail address unknown to parents (15%)
- Create duplicate/fake social network profiles (9%)
On the flip side, this survey says something else as well:
- 47% of teenagers don’t clear their browsing history – either out of ignorance or because they trust their parents.
- 54% of teenagers feel no need to close their browser just because their parent walked in.
- 66% of teenagers either do not delete their IMs, do not delete videos, or both.
- 77% of teenagers tell the truth about online activities.
- 77% of teenagers use a computer their parents may check.
- 79% of teenagers do not have a smart phone.
- 80% of teenagers do not apply friends-only privacy settings (but I wonder how many of these teenagers are only posting innocuous content online).
- 80% of teenagers do not use private browsing.
- 85% of teenagers share all of their email addresses with parents.
- 91% of teenagers do not create fake or duplicate social network profiles.
While the Internet certainly has the potential to amplify poor behaviour, the fact that so many teens are using it in an open and public way, and that we have such little media coverage of their poor behaviour online (which it seems to me would be highly publicized if it existed), suggests that maybe teenagers today are okay. The Internet is a communication tool, and historically, teenagers have struggled to use communication tools in a highly appropriate way at all time – which is not surprising given that they are in a state of developing identity and understanding the nuances of society.