The Right Age for Your Child’s First Smartphone

We often get questions related to how old a child “should” be when he or she gets his or her own smartphone, tablet or other personal electronic device. Our answer is almost always, “It depends” – it depends on the maturity of the child, what she needs it for and a host of other factors.

There is new data out of the UK that shows that, nor surprisingly, the average age for kids getting their first device is getting younger. UK regulator Ofcom publishes regular surveys about a host of digital parenting issues, and a look at the 2016 data compared to 2015 paints the device ownership picture pretty well.

iphone-2016In 2016:

  • 41% of kids aged 5 – 15 own their own smartphone, vs. 35% in 2015
  • The most dramatic increase was among 8 – 11 year olds, with a third more kids getting their own smartphone. 32% own their own device vs. 24% on 2015
  • In the 12 – 15 year old group, numbers rose to 79% in 2016 vs. 69% on 2015

So, if your child is 10 – 12 years old, it may be almost true when he says, “All of my friends have a phone”.

Tablet ownership is skewing younger as well:

  • 44% of kids aged 5 – 15 own their own tablet, up from 40% in 2015
  • Toddlers are getting in the game as well, with 16% of 3 – 4 year olds having their own tablet
  • 32% of 5 – 7 year olds own their own tablet
  • 49% of 8 – 15 year olds own their own tablet

The ownership trends are clear – up to the age of 10, kids are more likely to own a tablet. After age 10, tablet ownership declines, and smartphone ownership rises quickly.

If your child is aged 8 – 12, how do you decide whether she is ready for her first smartphone? Here are some of the questions that you might want to ask yourself:

  • Is your child mature enough to put it the device when appropriate?
  • Does she need a phone so that you can keep in touch?
  • Is your child able to identify potential risks when she sees them?
  • Are you ready to have tough conversations with her in advance, about sexting, cyberbullying and predator risk?
  • Is she willing to turn to you for guidance if she finds herself in an uncertain situation?
  • Are you willing to have a set of rules in place, and enforce them?

Handing over a smartphone to a child, knowing that much of the use will be unsupervised, is a tough decision, but one that every parent is forced to make at some point. If you’ve had a difficult or encouraging experience in your household, feel free to leave a comment below.

 

If your teen or tween is active online and you are having trouble keeping up, we can help. We respect your kids’ privacy and give you the tools you need to be a better digital parent. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

 

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Infographic: Teen Sexting Stats

Teen sexting is a difficult topic. In a perfect world, you start talking to your kids early – before they ever have a connected device – and warn of the risks associated with sexting. And the risks are numerous:

  • Risk that racy photos will be made public
  • Risk that the relationship will end, or never materialize, without knowing what will happen to the pics
  • Risk that real emotional damage will be done after the fact
  • Risk of criminal prosecution

Thankfully, it appears that police and prosecutors have been less likely of late to press charges against teens in cases of consensual sexting. The child pornography laws have not caught up with reality yet. Still, that doesn’t mean teen sexting is a good idea though.

Unfortunately some teens, especially some who are in committed monogamous relationships, are going to sext no matter what the parents do. That doesn’t mean parents shouldn’t be talking about it – just the opposite. These days, many teens view sexting as “normal”, even though the idea of it makes parents cringe.

Start talking today. Check out the infographic below from Intella Blog and Vound Software as a template for how you can approach the topic with your kids. Remember that this isn’t a one-time conversation. Keep it going as your kids age and circumstances change.

Permanent Picture: Teen Sexting (And What Parents Should Do About It) (via Intella Blog)

Permanent Picture: Teen Sexting (And What Parents Should Do About It)

 

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

 

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

New Canadian Teen Cyberbullying Survey

The kinder, gentler nation to our north has revealed the results of a new teen cyberbullying study, and in summary it contains some red flags and some significant positives. The survey, conducted by Canadian communications company Telus, along with MediaSmarts and PREVNet, took the pulse of 800 teens between 12 and 18 on the topic of electronic bullying.

Areas of concern from the survey:

  • 42% of teens surveyed had experienced cyberbullying in the prior 4 weeks, and 60% had witnessed it happen to someone else

It is worth noting that the former number is very high. Most other recent surveys indicate that the canada-flagnumber of teens experiencing cyberbullying runs between 10 and 25%. We doubt very much that overall bullying is more prevalent in Canada than in the U.S. – the higher numbers are probably (we hope) a product of how the questions were asked, i.e. “Have you been subjected to something online that made you feel bad?” would likely elicit a higher number of positive responses than, “Have you been cyberbullied online the last 4 weeks?”

Another difference in this survey is that boys (45%) were more likely to experience cyberbullying than girls (38%). Just this week, a UK survey indicated that female teen cyberbullying is more common.

The results weren’t all negative. The positives:

  • Overall, 71% of respondents had intervened at least once when witnessing cyberbullying
  • 58% feel that they would do something each time they witness cyberbullying
  • Even if they didn’t know the victim personally, 37% said that they would intervene

He number of teens taking action is much higher in this study that in others we’ve seen, which is good news. Teens responding to bullying were more likely to privately comfort the victim (71%) than privately (47%) or publicly (37%) confront the bully. That’s not all bad – taking matters into your own hands is a risky endeavor.

Incidentally, of the teens surveyed, 67% think that they get helpful advice from adults on handling cyberbullying, and 57% of teens think that going to a parent or teacher is likely to help. Of course, it would be great if those numbers were closer to 100%. As parents, we must try to keep the lines of communication open and offer support and guidance when we can.

 

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Yes, Teens and Adults Use Instagram Differently

Of course it makes sense that teens and adults use social networks like Instagram differently, but we rarely see research detailing exactly how the usage differs. We were pleased to see that researchers at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology published such a study last month titled “Generation Like: Comparative Characteristics in Instagram”. Rather than conducting interviews, the team used a computer interface to look at 27,000 Instagram accounts and compare the two age cohorts across a number of metrics.

instagram-logoThe teen group was defined as users between 13 and 19. The adult group tested accounts of adults aged 25 – 39, and data was compiled for the accounts’ Instagram activity during April and May of 2014. Let’s take a look at the findings:

1. Teens post fewer Instagram pictures than adults

Since teens appear to always be on their phones, this might come as a surprise. The stakes are high for teens on Instagram, where your popularity might be measured by your number of followers or the number of likes any given photo gets. It can be devastating (we hear) for a teen who is unsure of her stature among he peer group to post a picture and only get a few likes. If the photo a teen posts does not quickly get likes, it may be juts as quickly deleted. This is borne out by the research, which found that the number of teens who had deleted a photo over random 12-hour time intervals was significantly higher than the corresponding number for adults.

On the issue of number of followers, keep in mind that a large follower number is most easily achieved if your account is set to public and people who don’t yet follow you can see your photos. We recommend that younger users keep their accounts set to private.

2. Teens tend to post about self, or post to elicit a “like” or other response; adults tend to post more about things, places and people other than themselves

We believe that teens use Instagram as a communication tool moreso than adults do, so it stands to reason that a higher percentage of teen posts are related to “here is what I’m doing” or “here is how I’m feeling” right now.

3. The percentage of photos that are actually “selfies” is much higher for teens

The research team manually examined photos from 1,000 random members of each age group. For teens, 26% of photos posted were selfies vs. 17% for the adult group. That’s not necessarily bad, but too much focus on one’s own looks can be a sign that all might not be well in the self esteem department.

What is a risk is that your teen may be divulging too much personal information (where he lives), precise location information via Geotag or a pattern of behavior that makes his location obvious (at Dunkin Donuts every day after school) to a predator or bully.

4. Teens tend to have longer bios, often in an attempt to gain followers

Again, this speaks to the self-promotion thing. In our experience, in addition to posting their sports team or school status (MHS Football ’17 or MHS Class of 2017), teens also tend to post more personal information in bios – sometimes their age, often their Twitter or Ask.fm handle.

5. Teen posts include more hashtags, get more likes and attract more comments

If teens are using Instagram to communicate with peers, it appears to be working. They are sending more signals via hashtags (#summer #beach #NJ) in addition to the photos themselves. Hashtags also improve the “searchability” of photos, making it more likely that you’ll gain new followers. Teens in the study group added 6 tags per photo vs. 4 tags/photo for adults. Online friends are rewarding them with feedback in the form of likes and comments. Teens’ posts garner on average 56 likes and 2.5 comments per photo vs. 40 and 1 respectively for adults.

In summary, just knowing whether your teens are using Instagram won’t get you very far, unless you are friends with them on that network but the numbers aren’t in your favor here – 52% of teens use Instagram vs. only 21% of adults.

It is more helpful for you to know how he or she is using Instagram. Keep an eye out for signs of self esteem problems or indications of cyberbullying, and by all means make sure that privacy settings are age appropriate and that Geotags or a pattern of photos aren’t giving important clues as to location.

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

Teen Boys vs. Girls on Social Networks

Are there social networks that are more used by girls than boys, and vice versa? It turns out that there are, which should come as no surprise if you are already using social media other than Facebook – there are horses for courses. For parents, understanding which networks your teens are likely to be using based on how the platforms work and what teens use them for can he helpful.

We took a look at some very good data at Sprout Social that was culled from a number of sources including Pew Internet Research, Facebook, Twitter and Business Insider to see how it actually shakes out. We used the U.S. network penetration among the 18 – 29 year old demographic as shorthand for which networks your teens may be using, or may be using soon. The data is immediately below, followed by our thoughts:

teen-boys-girls-social-media

Facebook – Everyone is there but it’s not where the action is (only 14% of teens say that Facebook is their most important social network). Facebook for teens has become pretty well sanitized, mainly because everyone’s parents are on there too. Teens are using Facebook as their de facto online identity, for messaging friends, checking out love interests and because you need Facebook to log into a lot of apps and networks. In the course of compiling our Social Scores for teens, we don’t see too much trouble on Facebook.

Twitter – A hot spot for news junkies, kids with a big voice and athletes, Twitter is used used more by boys than girls. Twitter is a great platform and resource if used responsibly; it’s trouble if used for cyberbullying or trash talking. You can get the latest thoughts from prominent figures (Barack Obama and Taylor Swift both have around 60 million followers) or research the latest news using hashtag searches. If you have something to say that’s funny or insightful, you might attract a large list of followers. It’s the go-to fan engagement platform for sports – from high school to the pros.

Instagram – Photo lovers and visual teens love Instagram, where users are 32% more likely to be female. If your teen would rather say it with pictures or short videos than words, she is probably on Instagram. The platform is one of few that work equally well when set to private (friends only) as when used publicly, when anyone can see your pictures. Depending on your point of view, Instagram can be a big help or a unfortunately big problem for teens with issues such as eating disorders or self-harm tendencies.

Pinterest – It’s mostly girls on this very safe platform. It is safe because Pinterest prohibits all negative content, from sexually explicit material to anything that could be dangerous or harassing. Users create “boards” where they post “pins’ of things that interest tem, making Pinterest a user generated virtual scrap book. It’s fun if that’s your kind of thing, and it’s harmless.

Snapchat – Teens (and girls) really dominate here, where 71% of users are under 25. Snapchat really is what a user makes of it since there is no central public forum for posts. In fact, it acts more like a messaging app than a social network. The “disappearing” photos and videos that users send to individuals or groups don’t really disappear, but teens act as if they do. If your teen is inclined to be sexting or sending pictures of underage parties, he is probably using Snapchat. It is equally likely, though, that he is using it to send silly, impromptu selfies. Parents beware.

Overall, our Social Score work shows that most teens have profiles on more online sites and networks than parents realize. The best way to figure out what your teen is doing online is to talk to her about it. Being forearmed with a little knowledge doesn’t hurt.

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

More On Teen Sexting Statistics

While the title of this post is “More on teen sexting statistics”, it could as easily be called, “Why you should talk to your kids about sexting now.”

When parents fret about teen sexting, or when stories involving teen sexting (and the police) hit the mainstream media, the issue at hand is often the act of sending nude selfies to a significant other. As such, it may be tempting for parents to put off the talk about sexting until the teen is actually dating, or close to it. That could be a mistake.

teen-sextingThe definition of sexting is actually quite broad: “the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone”. The breadth of the definition is significant because while most parents correctly assume that it is unlikely their pre teen is sending explicit selfies to anyone, some form of gateway behavior might be taking place. You might think of it as digital flirting. Our message here – it is a good idea to start talking about sexting well before it might be taking place.

On to the teens: According to sexting research from the University of Texas, in which the researchers interviewed 948 students between the ages of 14 and 19, (the data is three years old but very comprehensive) actual teen behavior shakes out as follows:

  • 28% of teens reported having sent explicit pictures of themselves via text or email, evenly split between males and females
  • 68% of girls had been asked to send a sext, vs. 42% for boys
  • 46% of boys admitted to having asked a girl to send a sext, vs. 21% of girls
  • 27% of girls were “bothered greatly” by such requests, vs. 3% of boys
  • The peak age for being asked to send a nude selfie is between 16 and 17

As of three years ago, it was not unlikely for the average teen to have engaged in sexting, or at least have been propositioned, and yes, peer pressure from the opposite sex can be at play. Given the rise of smartphones, the numbers are probably higher today.

What about the younger kids?

internet-watch-foundationNew research from the Internet Watch Foundation and Microsoft conducted in the second half of 2014 and released this month examined “youth-produced sexual content”, and looked at 3,803 examples of explicit photos that had made their way online.

  • 17.5% of content depicted children aged 15 years or younger
  • 14% of the content featured children 13 or younger
  • 7% of the content featured children 10 or younger
  • 93% of the content depicting children aged 15 or younger featured girls

While it is probably not happening to your tween, forewarned is forearmed. Start early. We recommend that before a child has unrestricted access to a smartphone or computer, parents have a serious talk about the risks of sexting, and repeat that talk often.

 

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Teen and Tween Online Safety – What Are Parents Worried About?

We understand that every family is different, and every parent has different fears and concerns. A study conducted in 2011 by Microsoft and Northwestern University sheds some light on how parents actually think about their kids’ online safety, and what exactly they are worried about. The results are probably more relevant than ever now, as teen internet and social media adoption has risen steadily and we haven’t seen a similar study conducted since.

The study surveyed 1,007 parents of kids between 10 and 14, and results were sorted by age of the parent, demographics and education level. Parents employed in the computer software industry were excluded, presumably because they are far more tech savvy than the average parent.

Let’s take a look at some of the statistics and see whether they tell an interesting story.

In order, as follows are the things that concern parents when it comes to pre teen and teen internet behavior:

  1. Meeting a stranger
  2. Viewing pornography
  3. Viewing violent content
  4. Being a victim of cyberbullying
  5. Perpetrating cyberbullying

Given the prevalence of cyberbullying, it’s is interesting that relatively few parents (17% to be exact) are concerned that their kids are being cyberbullies.

In all the categories listed above, parents with higher income levels and more advanced education showed lower levels of concern than the rest of the sample group. Not surprisingly, parents were generally more concerned about daughters than sons.

When parents were asked whether they knew that their child had encountered any of the above risks, the answers were as follows:

  • Meeting a stranger – 2%
  • Viewing pornography – 17%
  • Viewing violent content – 14%
  • Being a victim of cyberbullying – 6%
  • Perpetrating cyberbully – 1%

If the study were to be done today, we’re not sure whether the results would be markedly different, but we are fairly confident that most of the above answers understate what is actually going on, especially with respect to cyberbullying.

Looking alone at the mismatch between known cases of cyberbullying victims vs. parents who know their child was a bully, it appears that many bullies go undiscovered.

What is your experience? Please let us know in the comments below.

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.