Teens and Screens: What Parents Need to Know About Teenagers’ Mobile Habits

Summer is officially here and that means the malls, theaters, streets, and parks of America will soon be teaming with hordes of teens, their faces lit by the electric blue hue of smartphones and mobile devices. Yes, there will be tweets, Facebook posts, SnapChats and Instagrams too. Most of this social media deluge will be harmless, but some of it won’t be—especially when it comes to teenagers’ online and offline safety. With this in mind, McAfee set about to learn what was “hip,” and “keen,” what was “square,” and “lame-o,” in the relationship between tweens, teenagers, their screens, and their parents.

McAfee’s Teens and the Screen study analyzed the social media and technology habits of 1,502 U.S. young men and women ages 10-to-18. While the results revealed a more positive relationship overall between teenagers and their parents when it comes to digital habits, there were still some disconnects and deceit. For example, 54% of teenagers actually trust their parents with their personal device passwords, yet 36% of the respondents admitted to using a friend’s device, and 14% went as far as creating a duplicate or fake account to avoid parental scrutiny.

Aside from a penchant for hiding things from their parents, the results also revealed a turbulent picture of what teens and tweens actually do on their devices. Unsurprisingly, social media proved the most popular for teens and more than 50% used mobile apps like SnapChat and Instagram daily—but not without consequences. 49% of teenagers admitted to posting something on a social network that they later regretted. Another 52% said they’ve gotten into a fight because of a post on a social media network. Thankfully, only 4% of those fights turned physical. Less fortunate, however, is the fact that 9% of those surveyed have at one point feared for their safety because of what transpired over a social network. That’s 9% more than there should ever be, as cyberbullying has become all too prevalent among youth today.


Aside from social networking gone wrong, 52% of teens admittedly do not turn off their location/global positioning system (GPS) services across apps. Users of Foursquare and Instagram were the main culprits, putting their privacy in jeopardy when they check in or post photos while on the go—especially in tandem with sharing personal information like home addresses and phone numbers online.

But don’t fret: more often than not, teenagers today are aware of online dangers. 77% of respondents said they believe that what they post online can never be deleted (an accurate philosophy to have), and 95% said they think that what they do online can affect their identity in real life. Additionally, 61% said they have enabled privacy settings on their social networking profiles to protect both their location and content.

So what can parents do to improve their children’s mobile habits? It all starts with open communication about the dangers they can encounter as a result of unsafe sharing habits. While you won’t be able to protect them all of the time, with the right information, you can give kids the tools to make smart decisions. The simple act of sitting down and explaining to your teens and tweens that what they text, tweet, and post can also affect them in the real world is a great foundation for building safe habits. Additionally, make sure kids protect their mobile devices with McAfee® Mobile Security, available for free for both Apple iOS and Android devices.


And, of course, stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats by following @McAfeeConsumer on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.


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