Study: Social Network Privacy Concerns by Parents and Teens
Privacy organization Truste recently published results of a study they conducted on the privacy habits of parents and their teens on social networks called "The Kids are Alright" [Improvement Needed]. The study reports a mix of good news as well as worrisome news for parents with kids using social sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter (top three among many social networking sites we monitor 24/7 for parents). It seems that at least among the parents and teens surveyed, privacy on social networking sites is a top concern, and while most are aware of privacy settings and the impact of content being posted, there is definitely room for improvement.
We summarize the key findings for you here, but you can also download the full survey from Truste's website.
First the good news:
It’s a family affair: 86 percent of parents are friends with their child on Facebook - we believe this is a good thing, as it helps parents know who their child is friends with online and what content their child is posting. Are you friends with your child on Facebook? Take our Facebook Parents Poll to vote and see how other parents responded!
SafetyWeb Tip for Teens - Be Helpful and Build Trust: Teens, you can help teach your parents about Facebook! 1 in 3 teens surveyed helped get their parents on Facebook in households where both the teen and parent have a Facebook account. By being friends with your parents online, you'll help build trust that you are also using Facebook responsibly and that you don't have a lot to hide.
You can also tell your parents about using SafetyWeb and gently nudge them "off" your wall so they don't feel the need to comment on or read every one of your posts. Since SafetyWeb alerts them only to content that might be of concern, you'll have some privacy, while giving your parents peace of mind about your safety. Unlike other monitoring applications your parents could use, SafetyWeb never asks for a child's Facebook username or password while helping to keep your privacy, safety and reputation intact.
- Privacy is important to both teens and parents: 88 percent of parents think their teen’s privacy on social networks is important, while 66 percent of teens think having control over their personal information on social networks is important. Both teens and parents take steps to protect their privacy on social networks - 70 percent of parents and 64 percent of teens use privacy controls on social networks.
SafetyWeb Tip for Parents: Parents, make sure you balance your need to know with your child's desire for privacy. While we spend a lot of time cautioning parents about public content that can affect their child's online reputation, know that what you post on your child's Facebook wall can also leave a lasting impression of your child with his or her friends. If you comment on every post or photo, or start posting embarrassing content signed "Mom" on your teenager's wall, you run the risk of being 'unfriended' by your own child, or having your child modify privacy settings to hide content from you. Note that we can help you monitor your teen's safety on Facebook from a distance without having to read every single post, since we'll automatically alert you when content crosses the 'safety line' and is related to more worrisome content such as cyberbullying, depression, suicide, drugs, alcohol, sex or sexting, and custom content that you can set alerts for based on your family's unique situation. We were very saddened to hear that the impending suicide of Tyler Clementi was announced to his Facebook wall prior to the tragedy, but that no one read the post in time to prevent what might have been avoided if his parents were alerted.
- Parents Are "In Tune" with their Kids' Online Use: Most parents have a pretty good sense of their teen’s social network usage and information sharing habits - 84 percent of parents correctly estimated how much time their teen spends on social networks.
- Parents Remain Concerned Enough to Monitor Social Activity: The majority of parents surveyed (72%) actively monitor their teens’ accounts, with 50 percent of these parents monitoring weekly, 35 percent daily and 10 percent monthly.
According to the survey, parents used multiple methods to track their teens social networking websites. Forty percent of teens granted their parents log in access to their social networking accounts, while a sneaky ten percent of parents had 'secret log in access' to their child's account, without their child's knowledge. While we encourage parents to keep a watchful eye for unsafe behaviors, we also believe that healthy boundaries can improve parent-teen relationships. Of course, if a teen crosses the safety line and needs some guidance with inappropriate behavior, parents should act responsibly, step in and take the appropriate action. Parents can take responsible action when armed with the facts and timely information about what their child is really doing online, which is why we encourage them to be watchful of social networking activity.
TRUSTe Study fact: More than one out of five parents have previously blocked or restricted their teen’s use of social networks over privacy concerns.
Study Reports That Some Teen Behavior Merits Parental Concern
While most parents want to believe that their child is behaving appropriately and safely online, we like the mantra of "Trust, But Verify". We think the results of the study highlight some areas of real concern for parents as well as teens. While we parents may be aware that a child's digital footprints can leave a lasting impression on college admissions officers and future employers, our teenagers may not be thinking several years into their own future. Make sure you know your teen's online activity well enough to verify that s/he is NOT doing the following:
- Teens can over-friend: 42 percent of teens accept social network ‘friend’ requests from strangers
- Teens can hide things from others: 60 percent of teens use privacy controls on social networks to hide content from specific friends, including parents.
- Teens can do damage to their own reputation: Some teens are posting things that they do not want their parents or teachers to see. Some may be savvy enough with privacy settings to 'hide' things, but others may have no idea they are posting damaging content that may come back to haunt them as they apply to college or interview for their first job.
SafetyWeb Tip for Parents:If you're concerned that your teen may be posting content that should be private, or content that shouldn't be posted online at all, you can find out what your child has posted publicly about themselves that might be cause for concern. Using your child's email address (which we never sell, save or share with anyone outside of SafetyWeb), we'll search the Web in real-time and across dozens of sites to see if your child has created a profile, and we'll let you know if your child's privacy settings are set to public or private. Continuous monitoring alerts you as soon as new profiles are created by your child, and across multiple email addresses if necessary.
- Teens can over-share: 31 percent of teens share content on social networking sites that they do not want their family or teachers to see.
- Teens can make mistakes: 18 percent of teens have been embarrassed or disciplined as the result of sharing something on a social network
TRUSTe Survey Fact: 82 percent of parents want to be able to contact a social networking site and access and delete content on their teen’s account
SafetyWeb Tip for Parents:If you need some help removing inappropriate or unwanted content that your child has mistakenly or unfortunately posted online, whether on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or the dozens of other social networking sites actively monitored 24/7 by SafetyWeb, feel free to call us for help! You can reach us toll-free 24/7 by calling 1-888-SAFE-WEB, or come chat with us online to get help with content removal, set up parental alerts for dangerous content, or connect your child's mobile phone activity so you can monitor who is calling and texting your child or know if they are using their mobile phone during school hours or in the middle of the night.
BOTTOM LINE ON SOCIAL NETWORK PRIVACY: Parents and teens can both benefit from more education about privacy settings on social networks, as well as open dialogue about what content and behavior is and is not appropriate online. Make sure you have a discussion about what is and is not appropriate to share publicly, privately, and with select groups of friends or family members. Be aware of the privacy settings for each social network that you and your child participate in, and if you have 'old profiles' you forgot about, make sure you find them (we can help you), modify the privacy settings, or delete them. You can find more information about privacy by downloading the TRUSTe Privacy Guide for Teens and Privacy Guide for Parents.
View the full Social Network Privacy Study for Parents and Teens, including the Executive Summary, Privacy Guides for Parents and Teens, as well as videos from parents and teens discussing social networking privacy on the TRUSTe website.
Tagged as: admissions, Facebook Safety, information sharing, Internet Safety, Online Reputation, parenting, reputation, safetyweb, social networking safety, teens online health