Those sneaky teens: What they're really up to online

A new study from security firm McAfee finds that 70 percent of teenagers hid their online behavior from parents.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

If you have a teen in the home, beware: there's a good chance he or she is hiding what they're doing on the Web.

According to security firm McAfee, a whopping 70 percent of teens aged 13 to 17 have admitted to hiding their online activities from parents. McAfee found that 43 percent of the surveyed teens access simulated violence on the Web, while 32 percent view nude content or pornography.

Interestingly, parents don't necessarily think that their children are doing anything wrong on the Web. In fact, McAfee, which surveyed a total of 2,017 people, found that about half of all parents believe their teens tell them everything they're doing online.

"While it is not necessarily surprising that teens are engaging in the same types of rebellious behaviors online that they exhibit offline, it is surprising how disconnected their parents are," Stanley Holditch, Online Safety Expert for McAfee, said today in a statement. "There is a major increase in the number of teens finding ways to hide what they do online from their parents, as compared to the 2010 study."

McAfee said that in its 2010 study on teens' behavior online, only 45 percent admitted to not telling their parents what they were doing.

Aside from accessing simulated violence or pornography, McAfee found that 15 percent of teens have hacked a social network account, and nearly 31 percent have pirated movies or music. About 9 percent of kids have hacked into another person's e-mail account.

So, how might kids be covering their tracks? According to McAfee, 53 percent admit to clearing their browser history, while 46 percent minimize their screens when parents walk by. Nearly one-quarter of the teens said that they lie or omit details about their online activities.

One other note from the McAfee study: 62 percent teens have witnessed cruel behavior online, and 23 percent have been targets of cyberbullying. However, just 10 percent of parents believe their teens have been cyberbullied.