Teens Value their Privacy with Their Phones, Though Parents are Snooping


Teen Perspective

Teens (ages 15-18) aren’t overly concerned about their parents snooping: 63% of teens surveyed said their parents were “unlikely” or “very unlikely” to go through their phone. And even if they did, 66% of teens said their parents wouldn’t find anything that would get them into trouble. Despite this,  62% of them still admit to hiding certain cell phone activities. 

Teens value privacy more than their phones themselves.  More than 50% of teens said they’d rather go seven days without their device than give their parents permission to look through their phone.

Teens hid the following from their parents: 

  • Texts or DMs (direct messages (31%)
  • Photos (16%)
  • Browser history (13%)

Nearly a third of teens think conversations are off-limits to parents, whereas photos and browser history were less of a concern.

Here’s how teens hid their cell phone activity: 

  • 35% deleted text messages and DMs
  • 22% sent self-destructing messages like Snapchats to keep their parents from being able to see them
  • 15% turned off location tracking 
  • 11% created fake accounts
  • 9% logged in to personal social media accounts using another person’s phone

About two in five teens (41%) revealed they have “secret” social media accounts that their parents are unaware of. Instagram accounted for 37% of secret accounts, followed by Snapchat (19%), and Twitter (18%).

Parent Perspective

A significant majority—78%—of parents with 15-18-year-old teens said they are fully aware of what their children do on their cell phones. 

What’s more, 64% of parents with teens said they have snooped on their children’s cell phones.  Nearly the same amount of teens, about 62%, hid some form of activity.

Here’s the breakdown of what parents secretly do on their kid’s phones without their permission: 

  • 32% have read their texts or direct messages
  • 30% have looked at their browser history
  • 24% have checked their child’s recent phone or video call history
  • 26% have looked at their social media accounts
  • 26% have secretly tracked their child’s location
  • 20% have unlocked their phone
  • 25% have looked through their photos

Teens and parents alike are concerned with conversations above all else, but parents are more concerned about browser history than teens are. (Maybe teens are familiar enough with incognito browsing?).

82% of parents who snooped said the main reason they went on their child’s phone was to ensure their kids’ safety. Another 9% said they snooped to stay in the loop of their kids’ social life, another 6% said it was out of curiosity, and 3% said it was for other reasons.

So what’s the right age for a child to have the right to cell phone privacy?

Over 50% of parents said age 18, while 40% said 17 or younger, and 7% said older than 18. Most parents believe that teens still need check-ins or monitoring until they are old enough to have a right to privacy.