Parental Controls Are Rarely Used to Monitor Online Teen Activity

Since the internet’s inception, parents have been concerned about its affects on their children. Not only is the world wide web an expansive landscape of sexual content, violent acts, and dicy language, it’s also filled with predators willing to do anything to prey on people that don’t know any better. Fortunately, there are dozens of services and softwares, like parental controls, designed to keep children safe from these cyber attackers. Unfortunately, according to a new study, parents don’t seem to be using them.

A study from the Pew Research Center revealed that parents would prefer to simply “check up” on their teens online and smartphone activity rather than implement parental controls in place. More specifically, 61 percent of parents said that they checked which websites their children (ages 13-17) were visiting, while 60 percent monitored their teens social media profiles in order to keep tabs. Comparatively, only 39 percent admitted to using parental control technology for online use and even fewer (16 percent) used it to monitor smartphone usage. Similarly, only 16 percent of parents admitted to tracking their child’s location via GPS technology, which, in terms of trust, is probably a good thing.

“As parents use a number of these hands-on methods to monitor their teen, they are relatively less likely to use technology-based tools to monitor, block or track their teen,” said Monica Anderson, the author of the study.

As far as digital usage goes, parents are a lot more involved in their teen’s lives than they might think. In addition to all the hands-on monitoring, 48 percent of parents said that they know their child’s email password, 43 percent know their smartphone password and 35 percent know at least one password for their social media accounts. In addition to all that, 65 percent of parents admitted to using smartphones as a means of punishment, prohibiting use when their teens act out. Further more, 55 percent insisted that they generally restrict online time in order to keep them from becoming sedentary and overly digitalized.

That was a lot of numbers. But the common thread between all of it is that parents would rather take it upon themselves to take care of their kids than rely on technology. After all, fighting the use of technology with more technology seems a little counterintuitive. However, parents aren’t technologically equipped to deal with the ever-expanding world of social media and the rest of the digital world. In earnest, parents would probably be better off if they embraced the change and let parental controls do the job for them. But until they do, sneaking around and stealing your teen’s smartphone to see who they’ve been texting will have to do.

Photo: Flickr / GSCSNJ

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Written by:
Conor is the Lead Writer for For the last six years, he’s covered everything from tech news and product reviews to digital marketing trends and business tech innovations. He's written guest posts for the likes of Forbes, Chase, WeWork, and many others, covering tech trends, business resources, and everything in between. He's also participated in events for SXSW, Tech in Motion, and General Assembly, to name a few. He also cannot pronounce the word "colloquially" correctly. You can email Conor at
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