A new report produced by Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and its Youth and Media Project in conjunction with Pew Research Center’s Internet and America Life Project explores issues surrounding parents, teens, and online privacy in an increasingly digital world.
The report, “Parents, Teens and Online Privacy,” found that the majority of parents of online teens (81 percent), are concerned about how much information advertisers can learn about their child’s online behavior. Seventy-two percent of parents surveyed are concerned about how their child interacts online with people they do not know, and 69 percent are concerned about how their child’s online activity might affect their future academic or employment opportunities.
“There is a growing policy discussion about how government should act in an environment where personal information—about both children and adults—is widely collected, analyzed and shared as a new form of currency in the digital economy,” said Mary Madden, research associate for the project and a co-author of the report. “Parents are anxious about a wide range of online risks for their children, but it is particularly striking that their current level of worry about data collection by advertisers meets or exceeds other concerns about their child’s online activity.”
In response to their children’s online activity, many parents have joined social networking sites and are actively engaging with their children online. “Teens, in turn, have mixed feelings about being friends with their parents on social networking sites like Facebook,” said Sandra Cortesi, director of the Youth and Media Project at the Berkman Center.
The data are based on a nationally representative phone survey of 802 parents and their 802 teens ages 12-17, conducted between July 26 and September 30, 2012. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish and on landline and cell phones. The margin of error for the full sample is ± 4.5 percentage points.
The report was written by Urs Gasser, executive director of the Berkman Center, Berkman Fellow Sandra Cortesi, and Mary Madden, Amanda Lenhard and Maeve Duggan of the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The Youth and Media Project at the Berkman Center works to understand young people’s interactions with digital media and utilize this information to address and shape regulatory and educational frameworks that advance public interest.