Survey: Large Number Of Parents Spy On Their Children On Facebook

Concerned about privacy on Facebook? If you're a teenager, you might want to look at your parents.

Truste LogoConcerned about privacy on Facebook? If you’re a teenager, you might want to look at your parents.

A new survey by privacy firm TRUSTe suggests that parents of Facebook-using teens actively monitor what their children post on the social networking site. One in 10 even secretly log into their kids’ accounts without permission.

The survey of 1,000 parents whose teenage children are actively using Facebook found people were generally pretty comfortable with the site’s privacy policies and settings. However, it seemed that this complacency might be based on false assumptions.

Eight out of 10 parents and 78% of teens either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “I feel in control of my personal information when using social networking websites.” Two out of three parents and seven out of 10 teens believe they understand privacy protection on Facebook and a majority of both groups (52% and 59% respectively) feel that the privacy settings are clear. Only 11% of parents and 6% of teens worry about privacy on Facebook.

Yet parents strongly felt that websites such as Facebook shouldn’t allow users to make their location/address, phone number, full name, email address and school publicly available. The survey also suggested that teens typically share more information than their parents think they do – though not by much – and that 68% sometimes accept friend requests from people they don’t know.

Parents feel that they should be given special privileges over their children’s accounts – the ability to erase status updates, for example. The vast majority of parents monitor their teenagers’ Facebook usage – 85% look at their profiles at least weekly. Two out of five parents have been given their children’s user name and password and a further one out of ten have obtained that access secretly (the survey doesn’t say how but my guess is perhaps by shoulder surfing or using auto-prompt in the password field). Younger teens and girls are the most likely to be monitored.

Most parents are at least Facebook friends with their children, especially their teenage girls. Nine out of 10 parents of girls are Facebook friends with them but only 82% for parents of boys. One third of teens actually helped their parents get on Facebook – with girls more inclined to be helpful (39% v 26%).

The results are interesting. Social networking and the balance between respecting your children’s privacy and keeping them safe is certainly a tricky thing for parents of teenagers to navigate. I’m not sure that the one in 10 parents who obtain passwords by stealth are doing the right thing though. There also seems to be a disconnect between perceptions and reality in that parents think Facebook’s privacy policies are good, yet they also think social networking sites shouldn’t allow people to publish their real names and locations. Navigating privacy issues between the generations is certainly a challenge that Facebook would never have faced back when it was purely a college networking site.