Pew: Digital Parents Talk It Out

Talk trumps tech when it comes to parents dealing with their children's digital media consumption.

That is the takeaway from a new Pew Research study, "Parents, Teens and Digital Monitoring."

The sample was of 1,060 parents of children 13-17 conducted Sept. 25-Oct. 9, 2014 and Feb. 10-March 16, 2015. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

According to the survey, 61% of parents say they have checked websites their teens visited. Not surprisingly, the younger the child, the greater the oversight. About two-thirds (68%) of parents of kids 13 and 14 have checked which websites their teens visited, compared to 56% of parents of kids 15-17.

But 95% say they have talked with their kids about what is appropriate for them to view online, with 39% saying they did so frequently.

When it comes to social media, 60% said they have checked their teen’s profiles, but 92% have talked with their teens about their online behavior towards others, and 36% said they did so frequently.

A vast majority (955) say they have talked with their kids about what media—TV, music, books, magazines—are appropriate to consume.

A healthy portion of the parents (48%) say they know their teen's email password, and a similar percentage say they have looked through their teen's phone and text message records.

But only 39% say they have used parental controls to block or filter their kids online activities, while 16% use parental controls to restrict cell phone or Internet use.

But 65% have "digitally grounded" their kids, taking away phone and Internet privileges. 

“As with many other aspects of child rearing, today’s parents take a wide range of approaches to managing and monitoring their teen’s online behavior,” said Pew Research Center's Aaron Smith in announcing the study. “Nearly all parents talk with their teenage children about appropriate and inappropriate behavior online. But beyond those discussions, some parents allow their children to operate relatively independently and with minimal oversight, while others take a much more active role in keeping tabs on their child’s day-to-day online life.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.