Parents Not Hip to Teen SocNet Secrets

August 12, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Privacy & Security | Youth & Gen X

More than half of all teens (51%) say they check at least one social networking site more than once a day, and nearly one-fourth of teens (22%) check more than 10 times each day, according to a study by Common Sense Media, which also found that teens’ parents greatly underestimate their teens’ involvement with social networks.

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When asked the same questions about teen participation, just 23% of parents think their children check social networks more than once a day, and only 4% of parents think teens check in more than 10 times a day.

The survey of both teens and parents, which was undertaken to explore the family dynamics of social media, found that many teens use the internet as a forum for gossip, sharing and blowing off steam, but others – unbeknownst to their parents – also are engaging in bullying and risqu? behavior online.

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Teens as Victims

Though significant numbers of teens say they proactively engage with social networking sites and reap benefits – such as studying, sharing photos and volunteering for causes, a number also report being victims of unwanted attention:

  • 18% of teens say someone has posted a humiliating picture of them, or humiliated them online. Of these people, 23% “got revenge” doing something similar to another person.
  • 19% say they have been harassed online or “cyberbullied,” while 38% know someone else who has been.

Parents Mostly Clueless

Parents have a lot to learn when it comes to their children’s behaviors online, the research found. In addition to significantly underestimating the amount of time their teens spend checking in on social networking sites, nearly half of parents (49%) say their child was age 13 or older before starting unsupervised surfing. This compares with just 14% of teens who say they actually waited this long.

Some teens also are attempting to keep their social networking businesses secret from their parents. 12% of teens with Facebook or MySpace pages say their parents don’t know about the account, 28% have shared information they would not normally share in public (16% of parents think their children have) and 13% have posted naked or semi-naked images of themselves (only 2% of parents think their children have).

On the other hand, some parents know more about their children’s social networking activities than their children think they do. While 14% of teens think their parents know their Facebook or MySpace password, 51% of parents actually do. Similarly, only 28% of MySpace/Facebook teens say their parents check their profiles “very frequently””or “occasionally.” In fact, 82% of MySpace/Facebook parents check regularly.

“In today’s digital environment, parents have less time to supervise their kids’ behavior,” said James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media. “Communication and socialization in our kids’ world is increasingly moving from face-to-face to face-to-cyberspace, and parents vastly underestimate the amount of time that kids spend on their networks. That makes it more challenging for parents to actually parent in the crucial areas of social interaction and development, and, in a digital world, parents need to play a more important role than ever in ensuring that kids get the best of these technologies and are using them safely.”

About the study: Common Sense Media developed the survey to examine how social networks are affecting kids and families. The research was fielded by The Benenson Strategy Group, which conducted a total of 2,015 nationally representative online interviews with students and parents (1,013 students and 1,002 parents) between May 28 – June 5, 2009.

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