Societal Computing Thesis Defense

  • Ph.D. Candidate
  • Ph.D. Program in Societal Computing, Institute for Software Research
  • Carnegie Mellon University
Thesis Orals

An Examination of Parenting Strategies for Children’s Online Safety

Teenagers are using the internet for a variety of social and identity-based activities, but in doing so, they are exposed to risky situations. The work of ensuring teens’ online safety largely falls to parents, many of whom are unprepared to understand the realities and norms of teens’ online activity. In this thesis, we investigate how parents and teens perceive online risks, the effects of using current tools designed to keep teens safe online, and finally, the usability of currently available online safety tools. We have conducted interviews with parents and teens to understand how they perceive digital privacy within their families, and in what situations teens’ privacy should be preserved or denied. We investigated a specific case of online safety, peer-based online conflict among teenagers, also called cyberbullying. We studied whether and how parents and teens define cyberbullying and a related concept, “drama,” differently. We explore the pressures parents face to employ privacy-invasive and restrictive parenting practices, and their confusion about teens’ digital communities that make some parents unsure about communication and education-based interventions. We identified a set of seven parenting strategies through interviews with online safety professionals. We explored these strategies through a longitudinal study of parenting software and behavior contracts in comparison to a control condition. Specifically, we measured the impact of one month of using these tools on participants’ perception of online risks and the usability challenges of these tools. Overall, this thesis highlights the importance of developing usable online safety tools built for both parents and children as primary users.

Thesis Committee:
Lorrie Faith Cranor (Chair)
Julie S. Downs (Social and Decision Sciences)
James D. Herbsleb
Amy Bruckman (Georgia Institute of Technology)


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