The internet’s evolution is transforming our way of life in real time. That includes the experience of being a parent, and to an even greater degree, a young person. Today, it’s not uncommon for kids to have an online presence before losing their first teeth. But we’re only just starting to learn about the impact of these changing habits, and the challenges they’re creating for families around the globe.
There’s never been a greater need to understand the internet’s influence on parenting and childhood – especially as more kids grow up and become parents themselves. That’s why we partnered with Malwarebytes for a comprehensive survey that asked parents and Gen Zers about their habits and honest feelings on the topic. Today, you can read our findings in a joint report titled “Forever connected: the realities of parenting and growing up online.”
The new struggles for today’s kids
The challenges of life online are far greater than choosing the best profile photo. Misinformation, identity theft, online scams – these are all legitimate threats for more than half of the young people we surveyed. But the largest problem in their eyes is cyberbullying (66%), with self-esteem issues caused by online comparisons (63%) not far behind.
Previous generations may have spent their days “walking uphill both ways,” but today’s young people are grappling with psychological burdens that are entirely unique to online life. And they need help from their parents or guardians, as well as teachers and mentors, to know how to respond and adapt.
A major factor in all of this is the freedom to post whatever you want by age 13. Almost half of Gen Z teenagers (48%) regret things they posted when they were younger. Kids will be kids, and a lot of parents agree that making online mistakes is now just a part of life. But helping the next generation understand the potential risks of what they post, or how they conduct themselves online, can go a long way – especially when paired with basic online safety precautions.
The critical role that parents and guardians play
Parents have an opportunity here that cannot be overstated. It’s not just the guidance and support they can offer, but the changes they can make to their own habits, which in turn will benefit kids. For example, many children feel they’ve been stalked or bullied because of something their parents posted online. Also, 73% of Gen Zers wish their parents asked permission before posting pictures of them. Right now, only 34% of parents do.
Connected families can’t ignore these topics. Our report highlights the growing urgency for parents to learn more about online threats, offer more security-minded advice to kids, and lead by example through their own digital habits. Most kids (59%) say they’ve learned about online safety on their own, rather than through their parents (21%). So there’s no time like the present for parents to read up on these topics and strike up these conversations at home.
Tips for parents (from 1Password)
With a little help from 1Password co-founder (and mother of two) Sara Teare, here are some simple tips for parents to help keep their children safe online and set them up for success:
Have honest discussions about sharing information. As the saying goes, “the internet never forgets”, and people often don’t realize sharing information with an app or with people you’ve met online can be an example of something that can’t be un-shared.
Practice good password security yourself. Having a password manager takes all the hassle out of it, so doing it the easy way is also the safe way.
Talk about consent. Most everyone has experienced being tagged in a photo you’d prefer to forget. Kids today inhabit an online world. Sharing with them what you’re posting (and where!) helps to teach them the boundaries of sharing, while giving them a chance to control their information early.
Share with them. When you get a text message saying your bank account has been breached, show them how you can tell it’s a scam – from a wonky number, spelling errors, incorrect links, or not even having an account with that bank. Learning that things like this happen to everyone offers a great opportunity to teach them how to handle those situations.
Talk with them and ask how they’re doing. What apps are their favorite? Did they see this story in the news? And ask them for their advice – have they seen reviews for X product? Should I try A or B for this job? Sometimes it’s little questions that open the door for bigger discussions.
Let them be a partner in online education. Kids have a way of picking things up quickly and they are eager to show their new skills – our latest thing has been finding new recipes on TikTok and trying them out. Some are great, most are flops, but by working together, we keep that communication flowing.
Get the full report
Read the full report to learn more about what parents and children are experiencing, where there’s a disconnect between them, and the lessons that future generations can learn from.
We’re proud to share these findings – and as we keep learning and exploring this “connected world” together, these perspectives can hopefully shine a light on the best path forward.