I was a little surprised when I started reading the headlines and stories this week about how more than half of parents are using Facebook to “spy” on their kids.
The new study by OnePoll asked parents whether they used social networking sites, like Facebook, to “keep an eye” on their son or daughter. Fifty-five percent of parents “confessed” that they do check their son or daughter’s social networking profile to keep an eye on them; 40 percent said “no, I wouldn’t do this” and 5 percent admitted they would if they knew how.
As reported, when asked to “explain their behavior, 36% blamed their ‘overprotective’ parental instincts, whereas 14 percent said they were just being ‘nosey’. Another 24 percent confessed that Facebook was the only way they could find out what their sons and daughters were up to, while 6 percent found that social networking sites allowed them to avoid having awkward conversations with their offspring”.
While I wasn’t surprised that parents were using social media to check up on their kids, I was surprised that this parental activity was almost couched as an invasion of privacy. Isn’t it a parent’s responsibility to keep watch over their kids’ lives—both offline and online? Shouldn’t we perform “spot checks”, watch out for risky behavior, and keep current on what is going on in our kids’ lives, both in the physical world and the virtual world? And, don’t we all use social media to follow, or—dare I say—to ‘spy’, on our friends’ lives?
I regularly encounter kids who believe that what they do online is none of their parents business. Sadly, their parents seem to believe the same. These parents may check their kid’s breath when they walk in from a party, set curfews, and establish rules about where they go offline, but they have no involvement and no rules with it comes to their online lives.
I firmly believe that when parents aren’t involved, kids are at risk. On social media sites, kids can easily encounter pornography and other inappropriate content. Teens may feel pressure to disclose information, post risqué photos and engage in behavior that could damage their reputations or the reputations of their peers. No information is truly “private” in the online world, and an online “friend” can forward any information, photo, message or video with just one click of a mouse.
Kids need our guidance, support and involvement as they navigate the good and the bad of virtual world. They need boundaries. They need protection. They need wisdom. This is one of the reasons we recommend using parental controls, filters and accountability software.
Shouldn’t every parent use the technology resources available to check up on what their kids are doing online?