Slightly more than half of parents say they don't have monitoring software on household computers that teenagers use or don't know whether their computers have such software, according to a survey released Monday by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and broadband service provider Cox Communications. Similarly, 42 percent said they don't review what their teenagers are reading or writing in chat rooms or via IM software.
That compares with nearly half of the parents surveyed, who said they monitor their children's online activity daily or weekly.
Almost three in 10 respondents were unaware whether their children chat with strangers online.
Part of the problem for parents could be where computers are located. The survey reported that 30 percent allow teenagers to use computers in bedrooms, home offices or other private areas. Parents said they were more attentive when the teens and PCs mix in more public areas.
The biggest shortfall for the adults is an age-old one: keeping up with teen slang. In this case, that means common instant-messaging terms like LOL (laughing out loud), BRB (be right back) and--more to the point--lingo like POS (parent over shoulder) or P911 (parent alert) used to indicate that parents are watching.
"We all know that the Internet is a fantastic tool for children to use and learn from," children's advocate John Walsh said in a statement. "However, parents need to be engaged with their children's online habits to prevent the unthinkable from happening within their own home."
Walsh, best known as the host of TV show "America's Most Wanted," plans to host a program on Internet safety, which will be aired by Cox channels starting in June.