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It's 10 p.m. – Do you know what your kids are doing on the Internet? According to a recent McAfee study, they may be engaging in risky business, and hiding it from you.
The security technology company's 2012 Teen Internet Behavior study looks at the online behaviors, habits, interests, and lifestyles of the Internet generation – kids ages 13 to 17, as well as popular tactics for covering up bad behavior before Mom and Dad find out. They discovered that 70 percent of teens hide their online activity from their parents.
"The fact is that allowing teens to participate in unmonitored online activity exposes them to real dangers with real consequences," the McAfee report said. "And these dangers are growing exponentially with the proliferation of social networks."
No matter how many times cartoon characters and celebrities warn kids and teens of the dangers of the Internet, they still post personal photos and information online – despite the 73.5 percent of parents who trust their kids to follow the rules of the Web.
According to McAfee's study, 43 percent of teens have accessed simulated violence online, 36 percent have connected to sexual topics online, while 32 percent copped to checking out nude content or pornography.
It's not just about checking out inappropriate content once in a while, though. McAfee reported that about 15 percent of teens have hacked a social network account, while more than 30 percent access pirated movies and music. Almost 9 percent of teens have hacked into someone's email, and less than 15 percent of parents are aware.
McAfee online safety expert Stanley Holditch said in the report that it is not shocking that kids are engaging in this sort of behavior, but it is surprising how unaware parents are about the activity. There is a major increase, since the company's 2010 survey, in the volume of teenagers finding ways to cover their online tracks, he said.
"This is a generation that is so comfortable with technology that they are surpassing their parents in understanding and getting away with behaviors that are putting their safety at risk," Holditch said.
Almost 50 percent of kids have found test answers online, the study said, but about 77 percent of parents said they were not concerned about their kids cheating online, which McAfee said showed the disconnect.
Despite many parents' "not my kid" syndrome, McAfee found that a number of them are taking more responsibility in their kids' online lives. Almost half have of those surveyed said they have installed parental controls on the Web, while almost 45 percent know their kids' email and social network passwords.
Fewer parents are punishing their children by taking away computer and mobile devices, the study said, while some are keeping track of their teens via location-based devices.
There are still plenty of adults, though, who have little understanding of their kids' various iDevices and electronic notepads and ballpoint pens that can record audio. Twenty-three percent of surveyed parents admitted to just throwing their hands up in defeat, overwhelmed by the technology.
Other notes from McAfee's study: Teens are spending two more hours online everyday than their parents think; 12 percent of teens don't think meeting online strangers is dangerous; half of teens admit to spending most of their time on social networks observing others, rather than sharing about themselves; more than 62 percent of teens have witnessed cruel online behavior, while more than 23 percent claim to have been a victim of cyberbullying.
According to McAfee, these are the top 10 ways Internet-savvy kids are fooling their parents:
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