July/Aug. 2011 - Parents Admit Shortcomings When It Comes to Protecting Their Children on Social Networks
CF Special Report
With about half of young people experiencing some form of cyberbullying or other harassment online, a majority of parents with children under 18 say they are concerned about their children’s social networks 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 today by SocialShield (www.socialshield.com), the leading online monitoring service dedicated to helping parents keep their children safe on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and other social networks.
According to the studies, over 69% of parents with children ages 10 – 17 say they are concerned about their children visiting social networking sites, with their biggest fears being, in order, contact from strangers, information being displayed online that shares their child’s physical location, postings that could tarnish their child’s reputation, and their child getting cyberbullied.
However, the data also shows that most parents do not take the proper precautions to ensure their child’s safety when visiting social networks.For example, even though 68% of parents believe that daily monitoring is a must because news on social networks spreads fast and needs to be resolved quickly, only 32% of parents say they actually monitor their child’s social networking activities every day, and 28% of parents admit they only occasionally, rarely or never monitor their child’s social networking activities.
Meanwhile, 66% of parents believe they should monitor all of their child’s Facebook activity including emails and chats, yet the most common monitoring technique stated—“friending” their child—does not allow the parent to monitor email, chats or many other activities where dangers could lurk. Even if a parent were to “friend” their child, it would be practically impossible and extremely time-consuming to monitor what all of their child’s friends are doing, especially since the average teenager has more 200 friends on social networks. Many parents don’t realize that the greatest danger posed to their child on social networks isn’t what their child does, but what others do to or say about their child.
“Almost all parents agree that they have a responsibility to look out for their kid’s safety and well-being while they’re on social networks, but there is a serious gap between what most parents believe is sufficient monitoring and what they are actually doing, which in most cases is far from sufficient,” according to George Garrick, CEO of SocialShield. “Our goal is to evaluate every friend request, every comment, every photo and all other activities regarding our customer’s children—including by all their friends, which typically number over 200—so that we can alert the parents if there’s anything suspicious. It’s ironic that so many parents insure their cellphones or protect their computers with anti-virus software, yet fail to properly protect their children from potential threats that can be both physical and psychological.”
Unfortunately, suicides by teens who have been cyberbullied on social networks are a fact of life today, as are incidents of predators stalking and contacting young teen girls, with such contact often leading to tragic outcomes. About half of young people have experienced at least some form of cyberbullying, and 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center, which also found that cyberbullying victims are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to youth who had experienced no cyberbullying.
Since using a social network essentially requires the use of your real name and identity, many people (younger, more vulnerable teens in particular) often post excessive amounts of personal data including their daily habits and locations, not realizing they are leaving a real-life trail of who they are, what they do, and where they can be found.
Other findings from the report include:
• 62% of parents feel that occasionally looking over their child’s shoulder while he/she sits at the computer in the family room is enough to monitor his/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 admittedthat “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/she knows in real life (although it’s impossible for any parent to really know who a particular “friend” is);
• 54% of parents say they monitor their child’s social networking account by logging into his/her account as him/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.