Parent, Teen Opinions on Internet Usage

Roughly 59 percent of parents see the Internet as a positive activity for their teens, finds a Pew Internet and American Life Project study on parent and teenager Internet use.

While 59 percent of parents surveyed saw the Internet as a beneficial factor in their children’s lives in 2006, there was a decline from 67 percent in a 2004 study. In the same time span, the number of parents who think the Internet has no effect on their children went up from 25 percent in 2004 to 30 percent in 2006, and the portion of parents who see the Internet’s influence as a bad thing rose marginally from 5 percent to 7 percent.

“What we’re really seeing is a slightly larger number of parents becoming more neutral,” said Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist at Pew Internet. “We have seen a decline in parents’ views on technology, and they seem to move into the neutral camp.”

Parents tend to be more concerned with the content their children view rather than time spent with media. Sixty-eight percent of parents regulate the Web sites their children visit, versus television shows (77 percent), and video games (67 percent). As for the amount of time kids can use various media, 55 percent of parents restrict time spent online, while 58 percent curb television and video game usage.

“It potentially reflects some of the worries parents have about media coverage of bad things happening on the Internet,” said Lenhart. “The perception that violent games and objectionable Web sites or even inappropriate television programs is more of a concern from a parent’s perspective in terms of long-term harm.”

After teens walk away from the computer, 65 percent of parents say they check to see what Web sites have been viewed, and some parents use monitoring software to gain more information than a browser history provides. Seventy-four percent of parents can accurately say whether their teen has created a profile on a social networking site such as MySpace or Facebook. “Parents aren’t entirely clueless,” said Lenhart.

Teens are given guidelines from their parents about what Web sites and behavior are appropriate. Sixty-eight percent of parents have rules about the kinds of Web sites their children are allowed to visit and what information teens are allowed to share with people they talk to online. Seventy-seven percent place restrictions on what type of television programming their teen children are allowed to watch, and 67 percent of parents set parameters on video game content.

“In some ways it’s the new ‘don’t talk to strangers’ discussion, ‘don’t do drugs discussion,’ or ‘stop, drop, and roll,’ talk. The Internet is the next space for that,” said Lenhart.

Pew Internet surveyed a nationally-representative call-back sample of 935 teens age 12 to 17 years old and their parents living in the continental United States. Questions about video game usage were only asked of households with video game consoles or equipment. Research was trended against surveys fielded in 2004 and 2006 and conducted focus groups in 2005.

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