PhotoParents are clueless when it comes to their teen-agers' online activities. That's the conclusion of a study by security software firm McAfee.

Parents may think they are staying in touch with their kids' computer habits, but the study found children have a number of ways to effective hide what they're doing from their parents.

The study focused on nine in particular:

1. Clearing the browser history

This is a simple function in the settings portion of the browser. The list of visited Websites, known as the “history,” can be erased manually or the browser can be set to erase it automatically each time it is closed. Fifty-three percent of teens said they do it.

2. Close or minimize the browser when a parent walks in

This is done with a simple mouse click, removing the browser from the screen so that whatever is behind the browser, such as a term paper, appears on the screen. It's the electronic equivalent of placing a comic book inside a a school book and 46 percent of teens say they do it.

3. Hide or delete Instant Messages (IM)

This is a way Internet users can carry on written conversations in real time. The “chat” boxes are located at the bottom of the computer screen and can be closed or minimized the same as web pages. Thirty-four percent of teens say they do it.

The teens also revealed to McAfee that they:

4. Lie, or omit details about their online activities

5. Use a computer their parents don't check

6. Use an Internet-enabled mobile device

7. Use privacy settings to hide content

8. Create private email addresses their parents don't know about

9. Create duplicate or fake social network profiles

Know the dangers

Teens not only know their way around technology, most are aware of online dangers -- yet they continue to take risks by posting personal information and risky photos online, even though they know their parents would be horrified if they knew. Many teens are accessing inappropriate online content, despite 73.5 percent of parents who say they trust their teens to not access age-inappropriate content online.

Specifically 43 percent of teens have accessed simulated violence online, 36 percent have access sexual topics online and 32 percent have accessed nude content or pornography online.

McAfee reports that some teens even engage in illegal activity online. For example, 15 percent admit they have hacked into a social network account and 30 percent says they have pirated music or movies. At the same time, only 15 percent of parents say they are aware their children have engaged in these activities.

“Parents need to get informed about their children’s online behavior,” says Robert Siciliano, McAfee Online Security Expert. “The fact is that allowing teens to participate in unmonitored online activity exposes them to real dangers with real consequences, and these dangers are growing exponentially with the proliferation of social networks.”


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