Parents Most Concerned About Kids’ Social Media Activity

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A new survey suggests that of all the things that kids do while online, parents are most concerned about their children’s social media activity.

According to the study, social media was the only online activity about which parents felt the negative aspects outweighed the benefits.

Of the parents questioned, 43% believe the negative aspects of their children having a social media account outweighed the positive results.  However, 31% did report that the risks and benefits of such accounts were equal.  Only 26% thought the benefits outweighed the risks.

In the category of parents who said their child did not have a social media account, 63% said it was because the risks outweighed the benefits.

The report comes from the digital safety group Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI).  The group focuses on public policy concerning Internet safety and provides videos, resources and blogs to help encourage good digital parenting.

The survey also found that of the 53% who allow their child to have a social media account, 78% admitted to looking at their child’s posts.  This practice is fairly common,  as many parents allow their children to have smartphones and tablets only if the parents are able to monitor any social media activity.

The survey also found that 71% of parents routinely check text messages on their child’s smartphones, and 45% set limits concerning the number of texts that can be sent or received in a given month.

Other noteworthy findings include 69% of parents worrying about a stranger contacting their child through social media, and 76% believed their child may use the Internet to look at inappropriate content.

The findings suggest that that most parents are suspicious of their child’s social media activity, as well as a 16% gap in parents who are outright afraid of the concept, and even more who deal with these fears by placing restrictions on their child’s browsing habits.  According to Paul Tamburro for Crave Online, parents’ lack of trust is troubling.

Despite all this, many parents are being left behind by technology, reports Jen Hanley, legal and policy director of FOSI.  She said, “Many parents say that now they are on Facebook, their kids are not.”  The children have moved onto other social media sites like Twitter and Instagram.

In addition, she said many parents are concerned that their children may “overshare” personal information online through social media posts that can then not be taken back.

FOSI collected data from three focus groups as well as through an online survey that had 584 participants.  Focus groups were separated by their children’s age, with one for parents of children aged 6 to 9, one with children aged 10 to 13, and the final group holding parents of children aged 14 to 17.  This is the first time the group has focused specifically on parental attitudes toward children’s online usage.

The report stated: “While many parents monitor their children’s online activity and are confident in their ability to do so, the degree to which parents actively oversee their children’s online activities and their confidence in their ability to do so decreases the older their child is.”