Teenagers in Virginia spend nearly 5.5 hours online every day, including time spent at school, representing nearly one-third of their waking hours, according to a new survey from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Cox Communications.
The survey sampled more than 1,300 teenagers in 13 states and was designed to help parents understand the Internet habits of their children and to find better ways to protect them.
Key findings about teens surveyed in Virginia are compared to national trends, including:
- Ninety-seven percent of teens in Virginia access the Internet using a mobile device, making it harder for parents to monitor online activity.
- Local teens spend 2.5 hours playing online games in an average day, and 61 percent of these teen gamers interact with other gamers online.
- Ninety-six percent of local teens check social media accounts at least a few times a week. Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest are rising social media destinations among teens; however, Facebook and YouTube are still the most popular.
- Most teens readily share personal information online. Seventy-three percent of local teens have posted pictures or videos of themselves, friends or family online, equal to the national average. Twenty percent of local teens have posted online their cell phone number.
- Half of these teens have received a personal message (an email, Facebook message or chat) from someone they don’t know, compared to 61 percent nationally. (Sixteen percent of local teens will respond to the message; 76 percent reported ignoring it.)
- Of the teens surveyed, 56 percent said they have actually met with someone in person they first met online.
- Nearly two out of three local teens try to cover their tracks. More than 60 percent of teens surveyed in Virginia have taken measures to hide Internet activity, well above the national average of 50 percent.
- Nearly 85 percent of parents have talked to their teens about online safety at some point, and 77 percent (69 percent locally) have talked to their teens about Internet safety within the past year. When Cox first started this survey with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2005, less than 25 percent of parents were talking to their teens about Internet safety.
- In contrast, the majority of parents don’t use parental control software available to monitor their teens’ activity online. With those parents who do use parental control software, 75 percent of parents in Virginia have given their parental controls password to their kids, compared to the national average of 46 percent. Parental controls are an important safety measure as teens are no longer tethered to a desktop computer in a shared common area where parents can visually monitor their behavior.