Teens, Screens and Risky Behavior


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New data shows that two-thirds of teens surveyed say they have engaged in at least one risky behavior online.

57% of teens say they know how to hide content from their parents.

The survey1, commissioned by AT&T, polled New York City teens, parents of teens and millennial parents of younger children to gauge how children are consuming media on mobile devices – and what their parents understand of their behaviors. It found 84% of children ages 3-7 and 96% of those 8-12 now have to their own internet connected devices (a phone, tablet, computer, or gaming system), representing a sharp increase since 2017.  

It also found that, 98% of teens have a device and 85% say they spend at least 3 hours a day online. And, although 80% of millennial parents are concerned that their children are spending too much time on a device, nearly 3/4 admit to giving them an internet device to keep them occupied while they focus on other tasks.

The data shows that two thirds of teens surveyed say they have engaged in at least one risky behavior online.

  • 57% of teens say they know how to hide content from their parents.
  • Half of teens say they have experienced some form of cyberbullying.
  • 1 in 5 teen girls surveyed said they have sent sexually explicit photos.
  • 15% said they have met strangers online.

Given this alarming data, any guidance from their parents about how to behave online seems to be having little impact.

  • 60% of millennial parents of young children and nearly half of parents of teens believe they have taken sufficient steps to monitor their behaviors. 

Other findings indicate there are significant differences between what parents think their kids are doing online – be it on their phones, tablets, computers, or gaming platforms – and the reality that their children experience. For more key insights and poll results, click here.

In response to these poll findings, beginning today, parents can bring their phones and tablets to company-owned AT&T stores in the New York metro area – regardless of their wireless carrier – to take advantage of a new program called ScreenReady℠.

ScreenReady will provide consumers with two services at no charge. First, AT&T’s retail-based device experts will provide hands-on guidance within the parental controls and content filter settings on the consumer’s phone and tablet (see video below). These settings, which are built into the operating systems of many devices already, can be hard to understand and navigate.

Second, parents and caregivers will be able to access customized tips, created in collaboration with Common Sense Media, to fit their family’s online safety needs on a newly created AT&T mobile website, accessible in stores on free-to-use display tablets.

In parallel with this NY effort, AT&T’s Later Haters program aims to promote positive dialogue in social media, while its’ Great Game campaign promotes kindness and good sportsmanship  within the online gaming world.

1AT&T and the bullying prevention non-profits No Bully and the Tyler Clementi Foundation completed a survey of 500 New York City teens, 500 parents of teens and 500 millennial parents of younger children from August 31 through October 1, 2018.  For additional information, see AT&T’s Report on Developing Safe and Successful Mobile Device and Online Media Habits

Offline discussions, online safety.

Our teens may always been an app ahead of us or even more cyber-savvy than us, but here is one thing that technology will never be able to provide them – wisdom.

Your children will always need your offline wisdom whispering in their ears as their facing challenging choices online. 

What our young people face online today:

  • Sexting scandals
  • Cyberbullying, harassment
  • Sextortion, revenge porn
  • Ugly poll contests
  • Racial slurs
  • Catfishing
  • Online predators
  • And much more.

Why teens don’t tell their parents about their troubles on social media:

1)  Fear of consequences: Your child’s online existence is a critical part of their social life. With all their friends online, being excluded would be devastating them. They don’t want to risk you banning them from their friends and their digital lives.

2)  Humiliation and embarrassment: Our kids are human and have feelings. Although some kids portray a tough persona and believe they are invincible, deep down everyone feels hurt by cruel keystrokes. Your child may fear looking stupid or weak. If the incident gets reported to their school, will they be able to face their classmates/peers? Imagine the horror of a child hearing from peers after being bullied that they somehow deserved it, brought it on themselves or should have just toughened it out rather than be a snitch.

3)  Fear of making it worse: We have taught our children well so they understand that bullies are looking for attention. By reporting the incident of cyberbullying to a parent, your child may fear it could anger the bully and make matters worse for them online. In some cases bullies will enlist more online trolls to cyber-mob your child. Of course the child’s dreaded fear is his or her parent reporting it to their school and more people knowing whereby they become a possible target in the future.

Having frequent offline chats about online life can help your child trust you are there for them –  you are their advocate – both offline and especially online. You don’t have to be a cyber-tech expert to be a digital parent. You only have to be interested in their cyber-life.

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