Do you really know what your children view online?

Published: Wednesday, July 4 2012 11:58 p.m. MDT

Online is where youths spend chunks of their time. Another report out this week, by Common Sense Media's Program for the Study of Children and Media, pointed out that 90 percent of teenagers use social media and more than half use it daily. Just over 4 in 10 describe themselves as "addicted" to mobile devices. That full report is online at http://www.commonsense.org/research

Addictive?

Psychologist Gregory Jantz, author of "Hooked: The Pitfalls of Media, Technology and Social Networking," believes parents should pay attention to how much time their children spend online and "networking," because online interaction may actually hurt the ability to relate in person. "When people abuse drugs and alcohol, they are trying to feel better, yet they are worsening their situation," he said. "We're finding this is also true for those who spend excessive amounts of time on social networking sites. Perhaps the hardest hit from social media addiction is the family unit."

But some experts warn that too much monitoring by parents can also harm family relationships. A Pew Research Center study that found two-thirds of parents monitor their children's online activities also noted it's likely to lead to arguments between that parent and child.

That's something Clair Barrus would just as soon avoid. "My approach is to have clear guidelines and to try to foster a good relationship with open communication," said the Draper father of twin girls, 16. "I try to ask them often how life is, do they have any concerns, is there anything they want to talk about? They can share anything with me. I try to create a safe environment for them."

Holditch said McAfee hopes parents will use the data to start a conversation with their kids. "Ask point blank if they're doing some of these things," he said, adding that it's a chance to re-emphasize values, including not cheating. Simply following the Golden Rule, online or in person, avoids many issues that can get people in trouble.

"If you kids are doing some of these things, it doesn't mean they're bad kids. It means they're kids. Kids are naturally curious," Holditch said. ..."If you have a picture of what your child is doing, you will get to the teachable moments."

Peekaboo

Among the ways teens hide their online activities, according to McAfee's survey:

— 53 percent of teens clear browser history;

— 45.9 percent of teens minimize a browser when an adult can see it;

— 19.5 percent use private browsing;

— 19.9 percent manipulate social media privacy settings to block parents.

Other tricks include disabling parental controls, setting up duplicate email and social network accounts and simply lying about online activities.

More on the McAfee report is available at blogs.mcafee.com/consumer/thedigitaldividestudy. The Cox Tween Internet Safety Survey is online at cox.com/takecharge.

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com; Twitter: Loisco

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