Secret life of teens

We might think we’re across our children’s online world, but new research tells us that 40 per cent of our teenagers are hiding what they do online from us.

Parent perception and monitoring

In a survey of 500 teenagers and 500 parents in Australia, security software company McAfee found that most parents trust their teens not to access age-inappropriate content, and more than half of parents believe their teens tell them everything they do online.

  • 80% of parents trust what they’re kids are doing online
  • less than half of parents are using any form of online monitoring (eg access to their teens’ passwords, parental controls etc)
  • only 10% are setting parental controls on frequently used mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.

Teenage online behaviour

Despite their parents’ trust, a large portion of teenagers are taking measures to hide their online activity, with 66 per cent saying their parents are in the dark about what they do online.

  • 40% of teens are able to hide their activity
  • 31% break the law through piracy
  • 20% access pornography.

Minimising their browser and clearing their browser history are the two main ways teens hide their online activity from their parents.

RELATED: Your computer is being used for crime

Access and supervision

Parents find it difficult to monitor teens online

Image by andronicusmax/Flickr

It’s getting more difficult for parents to supervise their children’s computer use, with more than 80 per cent of teenagers using their laptop, tablet or smartphone to access the Internet. Almost 95 per cent of Australian teens have access to a social network, with almost three-quarters accessing Facebook daily. On average, teens are opening up their first social networking account at the tender age of thirteen, almost half of them without parental assistance or supervision.

Risky behaviour

Despite many cyber-safety campaigns warning against it, 69 per cent of teenagers had posted person information online, such as email addresses, phone numbers, school information and home addresses.

Steve Redman, President McAfee Asia Pacific said, “These teens don’t realise or properly understand the consequences of their actions. They also don’t understand that once personal information has been posted online, it can’t be taken back.”

As for other risky behaviour:

  • 8.5% had entered into private chats with stranger
  • 5.8% had met with a stranger
  • 6% had posted revealing photos.

“While only a small number of teens are engaging in the riskiest of behaviours, such as meeting strangers from the Internet, it’s still happening, with one in twenty teens engaging in this dangerous activity. As a parent, this number is both terrifying and unacceptable. We don’t want our children to be putting themselves in these very real, risky situations,” said Redman.

Around 20 per cent intentionally access nude or pornographic images – four times as many male respondents as female – with just over 12 per cent viewing online pornography a few times a week. Over half say they do so a few times a year.

RELATED: Parents’ Guide to Tumblr


More than a quarter of teens have been cyber-bullied, with over half of them witnessing mean or cruel behaviour directed at a classmate or friend online. Over 90 per cent said that this cyber-bullying happened on Facebook. But more than 40 per cent of teens said they had confronted the bully online or in person, with a similar number of teens also talking to their parents, teachers or other adults about the behaviour.

Positive outcomes

Many teens have resolved arguments online,  almost half said they’ve gotten help with homework or assignments thanks to social networking, and around 20 per cent have searched online to educate themselves about sexual topics, to get help for eating disorders or for general advice, such as from the Kids Helpline.

Further reading

View infographic of key findings from The Secret Life Teens research.





  1. Unfortunately if your teen doesn’t want you to know there are ways around every kind of security. Having just emerged from the teen years with two very different girls I am testament to that.
    kelley @ magnetoboldtoo recently posted..Trigger.My Profile

    • Thekids says:

      I don’t doubt that for a second. In fact, really there is nothing you can do to stop your teen from doing anything. I think most parents just keep their fingers crossed that the kids don’t realise!



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