Parents using social media to keep an eye on kids

Published: Tuesday, July 19 2011 9:22 p.m. MDT

Your mom is on Facebook and she is watching you.

According to a new survey by Laptop Magazine, anyway, 55 percent of parents are using social media to keep an eye on their kids' online activities, with 11 percent using it purely to do so.

Of the 2,000 parents polled, 15 percent have send Friend Requests to their kids and 4 percent of those requests were rejected. Another 13 percent logged on to friends' accounts in order to check out what their child is posting on the social networks.

The reasons for doing so were mostly "overprotective parental instincts" (36 percent), 24 percent felt it was the only way to see what's up with their kids and 14 percent were just being "nosey." A surprising answer, questioned by folks at Jezabel, making up 6 percent was that doing so allowed them to "avoid having awkward conversations."

But these conversations may be what is lacking in the first place.

Only 10 percent of parents reported seriously discussing the safety of social networks and the Internet with their children and the Consumer Report found that there are more than 7 million children under Facebook's 13-year-old age minimum on the site, 5 million of which were under 10-years-old.

The report adds that while parents of children under 13 are generally unconcerned about what their child is accessing, once they turn 13, parents take notice.

"It's like an alarm clock goes off for parents when their kids turn 13," says Vanessa Van Petten, creator of Radical Parenting, a blog featuring writing by teenagers that aims to improve family relationships. "Parents think their younger kids aren't interested in porn. With a 10-year-old mentality, they're only interested in 10-year-old things."

"Only 18 percent made their child a Facebook friend, which is the best way to monitor the child," the Consumer Report said. "By comparison, 62 percent of parents of 13- to 14-year-olds did so."

When kids are allowed to publicly put out information unobserved by parents, it defeats the protections of the Federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, something the Federal Trade Commission is concerned about, Consumer Report said.

Sites for under-age children are available and require parental involvement. Social networking sites aimed at younger children like Togetherville, ScuttlePad and KidzRocket.com require parental verification, whether through email, credit card or social security number. In addition to complying with the FCOPP, they offer additional parental monitoring.

But for parents with children who meet those minimum age requirements on mainstream social media sites, monitoring becomes more difficult. Facebook recommends being your child's "friend" and respecting boundaries, but keeping the discussion about online safety open.

EMAIL: crosenlof@desnews.com

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