Parents Are Completely Freaked About Advertisers Tracking Their Kids

Big data? No thanks.

Teens! On the Internet! At the library! (Photo:

Pity the parentals: They don’t just have to make it through the terrible teenage years, but now the Internet exists to make everything worse. According to a new report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, the most common worry isn’t stranger danger or cyberbullying or even embarrassing Facebook photos. Parents are worried about advertisers.

Specifically, 81 percent of parents surveyed are worried about how much advertisers can learn about their kids’ behavior online. 46 percent are “very” concerned. In fact, they’re so very worried that 44 percent actually read the privacy polices for websites and social networks. Now that is love. Or, perhaps, misplaced anxiety.

Mary Madden, Research Associate for the Project and a co-author of the report, said in a statement:

“Parents are anxious about a wide range of online risks for their children, but it is particularly striking that their current level of worry about data collection by advertisers meets or exceeds other concerns about their child’s online activity.”

Let’s face it, big data is far more appealing as a theoretical technology than as a real tool used to foist Nikes on your 14-year-old. And the study comes just as the federal government updates the rules for enforcing Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, to account for all the technological advances since the late 90s.

Other worries are exactly what you’d expect after years of Dateline specials and Facebook fiascos: 72 percent fret about how their kids interact with strangers; 69 percent of parents are bothered about how their kids manage their online reputation (with 49 percent “very” concerned). There’s a reason Eric Schmidt recommends having the talk about online privacy even before the birds and the bees.

We can’t help but feel for the teens, though: Apparently 66 percent of parents who have kids 12 to 17 now have social networking profiles. According to one teen interviewed for the report:

Female (age 13): “I know for some of my friends on Facebook, some of their family members are really obnoxious.  Someone will change their status update to “going to the park” and then you’ll see eighty family members saying, “Have fun at the park.”

At least we know that no matter how far technology advances, teenagers will remain as surly as ever. Parents Are Completely Freaked About Advertisers Tracking Their Kids