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Fear Of Parents Freaking Out Stop Teenagers From Reporting Experiences With Online Risks

Update Date: Mar 02, 2017 07:09 PM EST
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It is an understatement to say that the Internet and all its modern technological advancements have changed the lives of people. In particular, to generations of people who were brought up to a society where being online has become a norm. But being constantly online has brought about problems and risks that harm its users particular teenagers.

However, in a recent study conducted by researchers from Pennsylvania State University, they found that most teenagers are hindered from reporting experiences with online risks due to the fear of their parents freaking out.

According to the study's researchers, teenagers and their respective parents have misunderstandings and miscommunications when it comes to experiences regarding online risks due to the difference in perception of the situation. In fact, due to this breakdown of understanding between the teen and parents, the teenager is more likely to not develop skills necessary to safely navigate the online world.

Moreover, the study reports that most teenagers are least likely to report or relate incidences of online risks to their parents. These online risks include cyber bullying, inappropriate online content, and possible exchanges of the sexual nature.

The researchers observed that teenagers tended to feel disconnected or nonchalant when it comes to online experiences. From the parents' perspective, the situation that the teenager perceives as nothing more as an inconvenience is blown out of proportion by the parents due to strong emotions like anger and fear. This overreaction and sometimes under reaction from the parents hinder teenagers from reporting online risks that they deem to be important or has escalated beyond their control.

Presenting at this year's ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing, the study analyzed data collected from 136 participants, parents and teenagers based on daily diaries regarding online experiences during the duration of the study. The study's participants also completed surveys before and after the study besides the daily diary entries. The participants were asked to report on the online risks they experienced online harassment and cyberbullying, data breach, exposure to indecent or explicit content, and online sexual solicitations.

The study found that online events might be reported by both the teenager and parents or sometimes just by one party or the other. In other times, the teenager might report an online event not reported by the parents. Moreover, the study found the parental reactions (both overreactions and underreactions) stop teenagers from seeking help from their parents when it comes to problems arising from online experiences. These parental reactions also hinder the development of the appropriate skills needed by the teenagers to navigate the online world.

The researchers suggest that parents should avoid freaking out when their teenage son or daughter comes to them for help regarding online experiences. In addition, the researchers advise the parents to be calm and collected when it comes to these situations so as not to belittle the teenager's concerns and/or issues regarding his or her online experiences.

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