Turns out parents think they’re doing a better job of monitoring their children’s social media and internet use than the children do. And the kids are probably right. According to a study (http://www.fosi.org/images/stories/research/hart-report-executive-summary-online.pdf) done by the Family Online Safety Institute (http://www.fosi.org/), 84% of parents think they’re doing a good job of monitoring their teens’ usage while only 39% of teens agree. And 43% of the teens reported posting something that they later regretted.
It’s clear that parents know they need to supervise the online activities of their children. So we are aware that online dangers exist and our children need to be educated and monitored. What’s getting in the way?
Digital Gap: We remember typing class and pay phone booths. Many of our teens had a cell phone in their backpack before their tenth birthday and are proficient on a keyboard but can’t write in cursive. And not only has so much changed, the pace at the change continues to accelerate and security is not as secure as we would like. Just yesterday, the Daily Mail reportedthat the FBI has been able to activate webcams without triggering the indicator light (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2520707/FBI-spy-webcam-triggerin...). Did the hackers beat them to this, or are they not far behind? Our kids are growing up in this environment and are more likely to be up-to-speed on the most recent apps and sites than we are. They have us beat. So even if we are checking, we may not be accessing what most needs to be supervised.
Time: The digital world is vast. If your child is active socially and online, it will take some time to check text, phone, social media, and website usage. Staying on top of it could turn into the equivalent of a part-time job. Some parents opt for more restricted access to cut down on the time it takes to monitor activity. Thankfully, technology is helping us out here. Tech executives like Loytr’s Cole Ratias have recognized that families need help and are creating solutions like FamilyControls. This app launches on December 12, 2013, and provides parents the ability to establish parental controls with PIN access for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Clearly that doesn’t cover them all, and the two with some of the greatest potential for mischief (Kik and Snapchat) aren’t included. But it’s a start. And hopefully, Loytr and other companies will continue to innovate and help parents bridge the digital divide with time-saving monitoring services.
Privacy There’s a difference between respecting privacy and 100% privacy. Kids often confuse the two. As parents, we have to be clear. Giving them 100% privacy won’t adequately protect them and gives them more room to maneuver than their immature brains can handle. We respect their privacy by being honest with them about our monitoring activities.
As the 43% of teens who regret a post are painfully aware, our digital footprints are permanent. And as our parents used to say, you can’t un-ring a bell. Making a mistake in the digital world can have damaging and lifelong consequences for our teens. We need to use technology to help us stay informed and aware of what our teens are doing.