In past generations, it was fairly easy for parents to control the kinds of information that children and teenagers could access in the home: the major channels of information were TV, newspapers and magazines. Children of course couldn’t buy pornographic magazines, so viewing pornography was a matter of locating a parent’s or friend’s parent’s collection and sneaking off with a flashlight.
These days it can seem almost impossible to monitor what kinds of information your child is exposed or has access to. The Internet, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…many parents don’t fully understand what these tools are and how they work. So, like in past generations, our kids are one step ahead of us as the world changes. And although illegal, it’s comparatively easy for kids to access pornography on Internet websites.
Should you monitor your kids’ use of social media? How do you do that? What are other parents doing?
This article discusses the findings of a PEW Research Study published in November 2011: “Teens, kindness and cruelty on social network sites”. The study provides an overview of teen use of and behavior on social networking sites, as well as parent attitudes and involvement, and addresses the steps parents can take to ensure their child’s mobile and Internet safety.
The article is divided into the following parts:
Part 1. The concerns reported by parents with regard to their kids’ use of Social Media
Part 2. Talking to Kids About Safety and Checking Their Online Activities
Part 3. Friending Your Kids
Part 4. Using Parental Controls and Parental Intelligence
The results may help you to begin or continue thinking about how you can help keep your kids safe, while still allowing them to access the benefits of social networking.
Parents’ Concerns About Internet and Social Networking Use
According to the Pew Study, parents are able to cite mostly positive aspects regarding the impact of cell phone and Internet use on their kids: 88% of those surveyed noted the positive impact of both connecting their child to information and connecting their child to friends and family. On a different note, only 67% found “making your child more independent” to be a positive aspect of this technology.
The major concerns noted by parents participating in the study—80% and 81% respectively—were children’s exposure to inappropriate content and the way that teens treat each other on social media sites. Only 63% were concerned about their children’s use of social media taking time away from face-to-face interactions.
It’s unfortunate that the study did not include a question about cyberspace predators, as this has been a concern for parents and law enforcement for several years. The information kids post about themselves on Facebook can make them an easy target for predators; this is an important safety consideration.
Part 2 of this article will address talking to your kids about safety and checking their online activities to begin exploring different aspects of parental social media monitoring and how you can keep your kids safe.
Tim Woda is a passionate advocate for protecting children from today’s scariest digital dangers – cyberbullying, sexting and online predators. He is the co-founder of uKnow.com, developers of uKnowKids.