Shocker: Parents Don't Have A Good Idea Of What Their Kids Do Online

from the attention-gap dept

A new study from the UK says that parents underestimate by half the amount of time their kids spend online, while 81% of those parents surveyed said they had a good idea of what their kids look at online, but just 31% of kids agreed. All this happens in spite of more than half of British parents saying they put filters or other sorts of controls on the PCs their kids use, suggesting that — surprise, surprise — those controls aren’t particularly effective. Furthermore, the survey would seem to indicate that what’s lacking here aren’t technological controls on kids’ online behavior, but rather a lot of parental attention. Trying to outsource parental responsibility to some technological solution isn’t going to work — but the responsibility shouldn’t be to fully or accurately monitor kids’ online behavior (which is largely impossible anyway), it should be to educate kids to protect themselves and behave responsibly on the internet.

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Comments on “Shocker: Parents Don't Have A Good Idea Of What Their Kids Do Online”

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Ilfar says:


This only worked because I use computers far more than I should, and owned more computers than I should have at that point… We just stuck one computer where it was visible from the others, and set that one as the only one the kids could use. And they weren’t allowed to use it if no one else was in the room.

We also had a laptop that was dying that I used to prove a point with the teenager – stuck a program that took photos with the webcam every five minutes, then pretended to have intercepted the images on the router. She refused to so much as walk in front of it from then on, and had a very healthy respect for malware and bad sites. It took a bit longer to teach her what she should be suspicous about, but in the end we had two girls who could do a better job of using the net than their mother.

Of course, this takes time and knowledge. Something a lot of parents seem to be sorely lacking in unfortunately.

Bob says:

Impossible to monitor?

ohh im sooo glad i read this.. Im going to start NOT watching what my kids do on the internet since the advice here is clearly written by the experts on parenting AND internet safety. I guess what John Walsh and the rest of the real experts on kids and internet safety are the ones that really don’t know what their talking about, which is pretty much the opposite of whats been written here and in other articles on this web site. Thanks for this awesome advice. Gosh, what would we do without techdirt!!!!

Andrew says:

Re: Impossible to monitor?

Bob you seemed to have completely missed the point of this thread, which is to “parent” your kids instead of foisting the responsibility to some arbitrary (and easy to circumvent) piece of technology. Or is it that you prefer to have children using their computers in their room with the special “filters” turned on and hope your kids don’t figure out how to use to search for something malicious and then view the cached version of the page? Better yet that they search on how to get around their “filters” and “loggers”? Grow up and think about what you are going to type between beers before posting.

Michael Whitetail says:

The trend for the past 15 or so years has been a rapid move away from parental responsibility and into technical measure to police kids.

Vchips, internet filters, GPS kid locators, and draconian legislation (please! think of the children!) when all that was really needed to truly keep kids safe online was for the parents to invest time and effort in their children and become *gasp* responsible parents.

People who think that moving responsibility for the raising of children from the parents to *anything* else are the same people who want an Orwellian nanny state. Take responsibility for your own (in)actions with the raising of your kids.

Anelly (user link) says:

I’m really not surprised about the fact that these days children are spending more time online that is expected. I look at my sister who’s 8 years younger than me. She spend 2-3 hours/day on the Internet. But she is still a very good scholar, learning a lot and i’m sure she is not searching for porn on the internet. Better searching for the latest football news. 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

My father used to flip a switch on the TV that put it into a test mode with a dots pattern on the screen whenever they were going out and didn’t want us watching TV. I figured out where the magic switch was and it was only about five or six years later that he realized we were watching as much TV as we wanted to when he was gone.

Michael says:


Its the need people feel to have the two cars, the house bigger than they need causing both parents to work… live within your means, and by that I mean if you have young children, one parent should be HOME. I know some will take offence to this, but its simply ridiculous to believe you can raise your children to the best of your ability if you are not home to do it. The time spent is far more valuable than the things you can buy.

Victor says:

Re: Greed.

I would tend to agree with this, I know my mom was home all the time while my dad worked, and I’ve know people where it was the opposite the dad was home while the mother worked. And I still cherish the time spent with my parents, however it was not all great, we didn’t have a tv until I was in grade 8 and me and my sister shared a room; most would think this childhood sucked because I didn’t have the luxury of some people, but my parents are not in dept, they were able to save money for my schooling and now we live a good life.

Charles says:

Parental Oversight on top of controls

Keeping the computer in the kitchen works for my family. We moved from the living room since we found that there is always someone in the kitchen (hungry teens :)) This was very effective. Also, for additional security we installed parental control devices. We tried everything from net nanny software to Open DNS. We found the iBoss Parental control to be the best. He has yet to circumvent it and its very flexible. We set more flexibility with the teen in the controls vs. our 8 year old. Its a router so we were happy to see that it also filtered the iPhone and Xbox and all the game consoles with were a problem since they can access the web this way. Highly recommended. I agree with Greed that someone should be home at all times. No substitution for parental oversight as we need to teach them values not just a cat mouse game of trying to control where they go on the internet. This is a multifaceted issue. Parental control, guidance AND a filter in place. You would not order cable tv with ALL the channels and have it available to your kids. TV is filtered and the same should be done with the Internet in the home on top of parental oversight and advice. I think to many parents assume they can drop a filter and whala! done. Thats the easy way out. The filter is only one part of the solution to help parents. Last, even if your kids are not looking to access terrible sights, with an open internet connection, one slip in typing a URL and they are in a bad place. This is why it is necessary on top of parental control.

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