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Common Sense and SurveyMonkey Release Survey of Parents and Teens on Social Media Concerns

First Quarterly Survey Finds a Social Media Disconnect: Majority of Parents Feel Aware of What Teens Are Doing Online, Most Teens Disagree

Common Sense Media
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO—Common Sense and SurveyMonkey, the world's leading People Powered Data platform, released the results of a survey of parents and teens on the subject of social media that finds a major disconnect between what parents feel they know about their kids' online activities and how kids view their parents' awareness of what they are actually doing. The "Social Media Disconnect" survey is the first in a new quarterly series of polls the two organizations will conduct of parents and kids about the most concerning technology challenges families are dealing with.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • Parents feel they know what teens are doing online, but teens don't think so: More than half (52 percent) of parents with teenagers age 14 to 17 say they are "extremely" or "very aware" of what their kids are doing online; just 30 percent of teens say their parents are "extremely" or "very aware" of what they're doing online.
  • Parents are tracking their teens more than teens know: 26 percent of parents say they use a tracking or monitoring device or service to learn what their teens are doing online, while only 15 percent of kids think their parents do so.
  • Teens are more honest than their parents give them credit for: 34 percent of parents believe their teens have hidden online accounts, but only 27 percent of teens say they do.
  • Parents are most nervous about Snapchat: Snapchat (29 percent) is the app parents are most concerned about, much more than Facebook (16 percent). Only 6 percent of parents are nervous about Instagram. Some parents aren't nervous at all about the apps their teens use: One-fifth (20 percent) say no apps/websites are concerning.
  • Older parents feel they are less aware of what their teens are doing online: Younger parents are more likely to say that they are more aware of what their teens are doing online. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of parents age 18 to 34 say they are "extremely" or "very aware" of what their teens are doing online; less than half (46 percent) of parents 55 and older say the same.
  • Facebook and Twitter aren't cool: More than three-quarters of teens use Instagram and Snapchat (77 percent each), but just half use Facebook (49 percent) and fewer use Twitter (42 percent).
  • Parents follow their kids on Facebook, but not much on other platforms: A large majority of teens who use Facebook (79 percent) are friends with their parents on the platform. Fewer of those who use Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter follow or are friends with their parents on those platforms (46 percent, 27 percent, and 18 percent, respectively).

James P. Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense, stated, "Kids are constantly experimenting with new technologies, and it is extremely challenging for parents to keep up. We have to check the pulse of parents and kids regularly on these issues in order to help families navigate the media landscape and make smart decisions. We are thrilled to partner with SurveyMonkey on this ongoing research initiative that will help us identify media use trends and concerns in real time so that we can provide timely advice and information to parents."

"We believe in the transformative power of asking questions to unlock the meaning behind data. Today's ever-changing digital world presents a steep challenge for parents to understand what their kids are doing and thinking," said Jon Cohen, Chief Research Officer, SurveyMonkey. "By partnering with Common Sense, a trusted source for parents to get the most out of technology, we're able to engage both parents and kids in a critical conversation about how one another really use social media."

Visit commonsense.org for more information and tips and guidance for parents looking to make sense of their teens' digital lives.

This Common Sense/SurveyMonkey online poll was conducted Sept. 20 – Oct. 12, 2017, among a national sample of 884 teens age 14 to 17 and 3,282 parents of teens. Respondents for this survey were selected from the nearly 3 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 2 percentage points for all adults, 2.5 percentage points for parents of teens, and 3.5 percentage points for teens. Data have been weighted to reflect the demographic composition of the United States in terms of age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau's American Community.

About SurveyMonkey
Founded in 1999 and based in San Mateo, California, SurveyMonkey is the world's leading People Powered Data platform enabling curious individuals and companies—including 100 percent of the Fortune 500—to have conversations at scale with the people who matter most. Whether it's a trend in the market, opinions of customers, or voices of employees, SurveyMonkey turns them into actionable data. As a pioneer of the industry, SurveyMonkey is a trusted platform for people to express their true feelings and opinions so that organizations can uncover the "why" behind the data. SurveyMonkey's 700-plus employees throughout North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific are dedicated to powering the curious. For more information about SurveyMonkey, please visit: surveymonkey.com.

About Common Sense
Common Sense is committed to making kids the nation's top priority. We are a trusted guide for the families, educators, and advocates who help kids thrive. We provide resources to harness the power of media, technology, and public policy to improve the well-being of every child. Learn more at commonsense.org.


SurveyMonkey Press Contact:
Teresa Brewer
[email protected]

Common Sense Press Contacts:
Corbie Kiernan
[email protected]

Lisa Cohen
[email protected]