It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to many that the internet offers ample opportunities for nefarious activities—watching porn, hacking accounts, befriending strangers, etc. Nor should it come as a surprise that tech-savvy parents nowadays feel they are in greater control of their offsprings’ online activity. What should come as a surprise is the level of deception teenagers use when it comes to hiding their online activity, and the blatant disregard for online safety they employ. A McAfee survey titled ‘The Secret Life of Indian Teens Online’ says that while almost 80% of parents polled trusted their children to not view ‘age-inappropriate’ content, 55% of teens don’t tell their parents what they do online, 35% access porn and 22% use their smartphones to cheat on tests. And though parents are increasingly becoming aware of the pitfalls of internet exposure, the methods employed to dupe them are woefully simple—most teens just clear their browsing history, while one-fourth simply minimise their browser windows when parents are around; others just do what they need to away from home.
Disturbing as this might be to parents, other trends are sure to come as a shock. The survey found that while 70% of teens knew revealing their address online was dangerous, 40% shared it anyway. Similarly with cellphone numbers—74% knew not to share them, but 30% still did. And as high as 31% of teens meet strangers online (many of whom they then meet in person). More than half of young people know of someone who has experienced cyber-bullying, a phenomenon gaining much notoriety around the world. These are scary trends, but short of pulling the plug on all online activity by their kids (next to impossible in any case), parents have little they can do. Parent-children communication seems the only viable way to moderate the dangers posed by the internet.