Monitoring how teens behave online is new normal for parents

Just as moms and dads tell their children how to behave in real life, parents today also keep tabs on how their kids conduct themselves online.

Nearly all parents, nine out of 10, say they have told their teen what’s okay to share, view or consume online, as well as how they should treat people when on social media, according to a new survey study from the Pew Research Center.

“It’s become part of the standard parenting tool kit,” said Aaron Smith, associate director for research at the Pew Research Center.

“It’s become part of the standard parenting tool kit.” Aaron Smith, Pew Research Center

Since the Internet and mobile devices are so tightly woven into teen life, that makes sense, he explained.

“Technology is the first thing they pick up when they wake up, and the last thing they look at before they go to bed,” Smith said.

In fact, the report finds that social media and the Internet are so integral to teen life today, about two-thirds of parents resort to “digitally grounding” their kids as punishment. And it gets a teen’s attention, Smith said.

To better keep tabs, about six out of 10 parents say they check in on their children’s Facebook profiles or favorite websites to see what their kids are up to online.

Half of parents say they restrict screen time, not because of bad behavior, but to prevent their kids from transforming into digital zombies.

By comparison, few parents, just 16 percent, say they resorted to using technology such as parental controls to restrict cellphone use or to monitor their teen’s location.

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Smith said that most parents trust that when they talk to their kids about how to act on the Internet, that’s enough.

Parents often consider those conversations as a “first line of defense,” said Monica Anderson, a research analyst at Pew Research Center and the report’s author.

Moms initiate these talks more often than dads, she added, which is a finding that is consistent with broader parenting survey research, Smith said.

“Moms tend to take a leading role in lots of aspects of behavioral maintenance and talking with kids about a lot of different issues that go beyond technology,” he said.