While social networks such as Facebook famously started out as a way for young adults on a university campus to connect with each other, the growth of these services has meant that teenagers are now heavily involved in them.
However, according to McAfee APAC consumer marketing director, Melanie Cole, this does not come without risk.
The security vendor recently carried out online research together with research firm, TNS, to see what teens are really doing online.
One of the key findings in the report, titled Secret Life of Teens, was that teens admitted to spending 3.6 hours online during a normal day.
“Teens also claimed that the majority of the time they spent online was via laptops, desktops and smartphones,” Cole said.
Laptops led usage at 56 per cent, followed by desktop at 33 per cent and smartphone at 20 per cent.
The most common way that teens are “fooling” their parents on online usage was by closing/minimising the browser a parent walked in (36%).
“30 per cent of users admitted to clearing their browser history while 19 per cent viewed something away from home,” Cole said.
While it was no surprise that 72 per cent of teens were daily Facebook users, and 29 per cent were on Google+, Skype made an appearance in third place with 15 per cent of users.
In addition to discovering that 94 per cent of teens nowadays have one or more social accounts, the survey found that the average age, at least according to respondents, of opening the first social network account was 13.
“Of the teens surveyed, 27 per cent were actually under 13 years of age,” Cole said.
“Also, 46 per cent claimed they were helped by their parents when setting up one of their account.”
When asked what the social networks were being used for, 45 per cent of respondents admitted to using social networks to get help with homework or assignments.
However, as an indication of the diversity of interaction on social networks, 38 per cent chose “none of these.”
As for what teens’ attitudes are towards online, 80 per cent of respondents feel that their parents/guardians trust them to do what is right when they are online.
The second highest result, at 67 per cent, was that teens feel that their parents/guardians know “some” of what they do online, but “not everything.”
When it came to dissecting what types of posts are being posted on social network, swearing and inappropriate language came out on top at 26 per cent, followed by a mean comment about someone at 19 per cent and aquestionable photos of yourself or others at 18 per cent
“A comment about your activities you wouldn’t want your parents to know came at 15 per cent, closely followed by a comment about you hooking up with someone at 14 per cent,” Cole said.
Cyberbulling has been popping up as a topic in the media in recent years, so when teens were witnesses to it on social networks, 42 per cent would tell the people being mean to stop.
While 38 per cent would go as far as tell their parents about it, 28 admitted to doing nothing.
“Typically 91 per cent of teens witnessed cruel behaviour on Facebook,” Cole said.
The survey looked into the types of personal information posted online, especially when it came to the perception of what they felt was “dangerous” or not.
Their home address (97 per cent), phone number (96 per cent) and mobile phone number (95 per cent) were identified as dangerous posts according to teens, while the actual posts by teens consisted of a photo of themself (64 per cent) and the name of their school (36 per cent).
Accidental access to nudity or pornography was a topic covered by report, which found that there were several popular gateways to accidental access to nudity.
Clicking on ad was the most common way at 41 per cent, while a link sent by a friend or acquaintance came and a video on YouTube both came at 28 per cent each.
“We also found that 20 per cent of teens intentionally accessed nudity,” Cole said.