Nav: Home

Kids want parental help with online risk, but fear parental freak outs

February 27, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Although it may come as no surprise to the Fresh Prince, kids think that parents just don't understand what it is like to be a teen in an internet-connected world and this lack of understanding may hinder the development of skills necessary to safely navigate online, according to a team of researchers.

In a study, teens rarely talked to their parents about potentially risky online experiences, according to Pamela Wisniewski, formerly a post-doctoral scholar in information sciences and technology, Penn State, and currently an assistant professor in computer science at the University of Central Florida. She added that parents and children often have much different perceptions of and reactions to the same online situations. Some of these situations may include cyberbullying, sexual exchanges and viewing inappropriate content online.

"There seems to be a disconnect between what types of situations teens experience every day and what types of experiences parents have online," said Wisniewski. "Teens tended to be more nonchalant and say that the incident made them embarrassed, while parents, even though they were reporting more low-risk events, emoted much stronger feelings, becoming angry and scared. For teens, some felt these types of experiences were just par for the course."

The researchers suggest that this disconnect may lead teens to refrain from talking about situations that may upset their parents.

"When you asked why teens didn't talk to their parents, a lot of times they mention risky situations, which they didn't think were a big deal, but they add that if they told their parents, they would just freak out and make things worse," Wisniewski said.

She added that while overreacting may curb communication, parents should avoid acting dismissive when a teen does come to them with an issue.

"When teens actually talked to their parents about what had happened, they often wanted help understanding or navigating the situation, but parents tended to misinterpret their intent, not realizing that their teens were trying to open lines of communication," said Wisniewski. "It seemed like a missed opportunity. One of the takeaways for parents, then, is that if their teen goes to them with something that they are experiencing online, parents might realize that there are likely other events that their teen doesn't come to them about. If it's important enough for the teen to bring up to the parent, it may be important enough to use as a teachable, yet nonjudgmental, moment."

The researchers, who present their findings at the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing today (Feb. 27), suggest that parental reactions -- both over reactions or under reactions -- may not just thwart teens from seeking their parents' help with a current problem, but also diminish the teens' ability to successfully navigate future online encounters that may be even more risky.

"Parental engagement can serve as teachable moments and increase the teens' resilience in safely interacting online and in social media," Wisniewski added.

A total of 136 participants -- 68 parents and their teens -- completed diaries about their online experiences during the study. The participants filled out a pre-survey, post-survey and eight weekly diary entries. Each week, parents and teens were expected to report on four potential types of online risks -- information breaches, online harassment and bullying, sexual solicitations and exposure to explicit content -- that they may have encountered during the week.

"The important point here is that the parent and the teen could both report on the same event, the teen could report on an event that the parent didn't report on and the parent could report on an event that the teen didn't report on," said Wisniewski.
-end-
Wisniewski worked with Heng Xu, associate professor of information sciences and technology; Mary Beth Rosson, professor of information science and technology and interim Dean of the College of Information Sciences and Technology and John M. Carroll, distinguished professor of information sciences and technology, all of Penn State.

The National Science Foundation supported this work.

Penn State

Related Parents Articles:

Marijuana use may not make parents more 'chill'
Sorry, marijuana moms and dads: Using pot may not make you a more relaxed parent, at least when it comes to how you discipline your children.
Becoming new parents increases produce purchases
In the United States, both children and adults eat too few fruits and vegetables, which puts them at risk for poor diet quality and adverse health consequences.
Why parents should teach their kids to give
Teaching children how to appropriately give money away can help them develop valuable financial skills such as budgeting, and it may also contribute to their well-being later in life, according to a study led by the University of Arizona.
Parents unknown
Animals in hard-to-reach places, especially strange, 'unattractive,' animals, may completely escape our attention.
Most parents say hands-on, intensive parenting is best
Most parents say a child-centered, time-intensive approach to parenting is the best way to raise their kids, regardless of education, income or race.
Can parents of juvenile offenders still dream?
A new study from Michigan State University published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence reveals that mothers don't lose hope for their sons' futures and potential -- even if they are arrested as a minor.
Cannabis use up among parents with children in the home
Cannabis use increased among parents who smoke cigarettes, as well as among non-smoking parents, according to a new study. Cannabis use was nearly four times more common among cigarette smokers compared with non-smokers. Until now, little had been known about current trends in the use of cannabis among parents with children in the home, the prevalence of exposure to both tobacco and cannabis, and which populations might be at greatest risk.
How parents cause children's friendships to end
A new study reveals why childhood friendships fall apart and is the first to demonstrate that parents are an important source of these breakups.
Immigrant parents report fewer adverse childhood experiences than US-born parents
A new study found immigrants reported fewer potentially health-harming adverse childhood experiences, such as abuse, violence, or divorce, than native-born Americans.
Parents of premature babies as happy as other parents by adulthood
Parents of very premature or very low birth weight babies have the same life satisfaction as parents of full-term babies, when their children reach adulthood- according to new research by the University of Warwick.
More Parents News and Parents Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Accessing Better Health
Essential health care is a right, not a privilege ... or is it? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can give everyone access to a healthier way of life, despite who you are or where you live. Guests include physician Raj Panjabi, former NYC health commissioner Mary Bassett, researcher Michael Hendryx, and neuroscientist Rachel Wurzman.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#544 Prosperity Without Growth
The societies we live in are organised around growth, objects, and driving forward a constantly expanding economy as benchmarks of success and prosperity. But this growing consumption at all costs is at odds with our understanding of what our planet can support. How do we lower the environmental impact of economic activity? How do we redefine success and prosperity separate from GDP, which politicians and governments have focused on for decades? We speak with ecological economist Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey, Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Propserity, and author of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab