Parents and their kids play a cat-and-mouse game on Facebook: The former tries to keep tab on the latter, which responds by running faster, prompting the former to do the same.
Kids know that their parents are watching and think that ignoring their folks’ friend requests takes care of the problem. Parents realize that they’re being ignored and get desperate. Desperation leads to the kinds of behavior unearthed in a survey by security software maker AVG.
- 61 percent of U.S. parents admitted to logging into their teenager’s Facebook account without letting the kids know;
- 20 percent of the parents said they’ve encountered explicit messages in their kids’ accounts;
- 72 percent say they’ve befriended their teen on Facebook to monitor behavior;
- 20 percent suspect their children are accessing pornography or illegal music downloads;
- 20 percent suspect their teens of “sexting,” sending nude images of themselves to others;
- 20 percent of American parents also suspect their teens of “sexting” via their mobile phones; and
- 80 percent of parents believe their teens befriend people online who they’ve never met in person.
Parents need to be conscious about the way their kids are interacting with technology from a very early age and not just from when they are at school… By the time they are teenagers, many teens have acquired a level of tech independence that can both confuse and concern many parents.
However, leaving aside the rights and wrongs of accessing a teenager’s social media account, there are a lot of questions about how effective this really is. Almost every teen now has an Internet enabled smartphone, which gives them a large degree of freedom away from parental eyes.
Wanting to make sure that a teenager is safe online and that s/he isn’t posting anything that might affect his or her future educational prospects is only natural. But especially when you get to 16-17 year olds, you are not talking about children anymore.
An open discussion about how they use technology and working with teens to make them aware that colleges and employers now routinely carry out online searches of applicants is important.
By the time they are ready to leave the parental home for further education, or for a job, as a parent you want to make sure that they are leaving home with an adult sense of taking responsibility for their actions. That sense of responsibility is just as important in the online world as it is in the real world.
Overall, every parent has to find their own approach, but speaking openly with your kids about their online activity is a great step forward.