Teenagers: Secure at home but without privacy


Whether for an annual summer vacation or nowadays amid the coronavirus, children of all years reside with family. But while one’s house should guarantee safety and protection, many parents secretly violate the youth’s privacy. Parental snooping targets text messages, DMs, browser history, photos and more. So what exactly does this mean?

WhistleOut and Lux Insights surveyed over 600 people–with 314 teens 15-18 years old–providing shocking results of parents snooping on their children’s phones.

Though WhistleOut conducted this study with Lux Insights, a market research company, before the COVID-19 outbreak, WhistleOut’s Sherri Riggs believes its findings still show relevant, significant data.

“So for our study, we just found that privacy, that teens really valued privacy, and they didn’t want their parents involved really in their conversations,” said Sherri Riggs, YouTube Host and Social Media Specialist, WhistleOut. “So whether those conversations involved inappropriate pictures or just talking to strangers… teens just really value or do value their privacy in those conversations.”

And while parents may have good intentions–82 percent of surveyed parents said the snoop out of concern of their child’s safety–they nevertheless may be betraying their children’s trust–63 percent of teens said their parents were unlikely or very unlikely to go through their phone, while 64 percent of parents admitted to snooping.

So it’s almost as if teens don’t even know that their parents are snooping on them. And that could be due to technology like there could be secret apps parents  have installed on their phones before they gave it to them, or they could just be grabbing their phone when their teen doesn’t know, but we didn’t ask about any fallout between parents and children.”

Sherri Riggs, YouTube Host and Social Media Specialist, WhistleOut

Nine percent of surveyed parents said they snooped to stay in the “loop of their children’s social life,” six percent said it was out of “curiosity” and the remainder said “for some other reason.”

And yet another interesting find: although 66 percent said they would not get into trouble for anything on their phones, more than half (54 percent) said they’d rather go a week without their phone than let their parents look through their mobile device. Furthermore, 62 percent of teens admit to hiding their phone activity from their parents.

Courtesy WhistleOut Research

What about teens’ technology and media usage nowadays is responsible for the increase in snooping, though? Why might parents be particularly worried?

“Right off the top, kids and teens are communicating with strangers and trying to impress strangers on a larger basis than they ever have before, said Riggs. “… So parents might not know the extent of which their children are communicating with complete strangers online and what contact [teens] sharing with [strangers].”

So I think that’s one big implication of these apps like TikTok and teens using them.” 

Sherri Riggs, YouTube Host and Social Media Specialist, WhistleOut

But on the other hand, if teens were to snoop on their parents’ phones?

“We did not ask about it the other way… but I can’t even imagine what my parents would do to me if they caught me snooping on their phone for like any reason other than playing games at that age,” said Riggs.

And ultimately, the amount of freedom each teenager has depends on his or her family environment and relationships.

“I think the answer is kind of another question we need to look at,” said Riggs. “… I believe teens think they have much more privacy than they actually do. And that’s the key there, that parents are being pretty sneaky with how they’re looking at their children’s phones.”