I Want To Protect My Kids From Social Media…But How?

By Kenna McHugh Comment

The Hindu Photo: M. Vedhan

New SocialShield studies with comScore show that many parents do not properly monitor their children’s social networking activities.

A majority of parents with children under 18 say they are concerned about their children’s social networking activities and want to find ways to protect them. Most parents also admit, however, that they do not have the tools, knowledge or time to properly monitor their children on social networks—and many admit that they take no precautions at all. That’s according to two new studies released by SocialShield.

I have a problem with these studies because they are shared to sell a product. This particular survey is slanted at selling SocialShield, a monitoring program parents can use to keep an eye on their kids while they visit social networking sites. All due respect, parents need to take the time to communicate to their children about social network’s shortcomings. They need to have some familiarity on how to use the different social networks. Using a social network essentially requires the use of your real name and identity; many people often post excessive amounts of personal data including their daily habits and locations.

Other findings from the report include:

-62% of parents feel that occasionally looking over their child’s shoulder while he or she sits at the computer in the family room is enough to monitor his or her activities effectively, even though 71% admit their child also accesses social networks from other places, such as at a friend’s house or the library

-50% of parents admitted that “properly monitoring would take a lot of time and I’m sure there are things I’m not seeing”

-63% of parents say they frequently review who their child is friending on social networks to make sure it is only people that he or she knows in real life;

-54% of parents say they monitor their child’s social networking account by logging into his or her account as him or her on occasion; only 5% say they are currently using a monitoring application that alerts them if there is something they should be aware of.

“Whenever I’m speaking to parent organizations, I always tell them that you don’t know what you don’t know, and this data proves that while parents want to protect their kids on social networks, they don’t necessarily have time or even know the most effective way,” states Steve DeWarns, a San Francisco Bay Area police officer and the chief safety officer of SocialShield. “And at the most basic level, a large proportion of parents really don’t understand what social networks are and how they work, thus where the risks lie.”

I agree with Officer DeWarns. Parents need to educate themselves and understand how social networks work and where the risks lie. When I tell a parent that I write about social media, they usually ask me about the subject. They want to know more about it, so they understand what their kids are doing on the different networks like Facebook.  I tell them to join Facebook and become familiar with the network. Knowing more about what your child is doing keeps the unforeseen surprises away.