Parents Spy on Kids’ Facebook — Get Used to It!

Parents Spy on Kids’ Facebook — Get Used to It!

Parents are checking up on their kids’ Facebook activity, a lesson the kids may resent, but one that is likely good practice for adulthood.

Online security firm AVG presented the latest phase of its “Digital Diaries” project, which revealed parental spying is on the rise for kids aged 14-17, who were born with a “digital footprint.”

These kids represent a generation whose earliest presence, in the form of ultrasound pictures for example, have been posted and shared online in growing numbers. The firm’s earlier Digital Diaries segment found more of these children, often dubbed “digital natives,” could play a computer game by age 5 than ride a bike.

In that light, it is hardly surprising that parents, who are increasingly responsible for creating their kids’ digital lives, can’t resist peeking into them as their children age. The survey found more than 60 percent of U.S. parents report accessing their teen’s Facebook accounts without permission up to the age of 17.

However, parental snooping is not likely to give parents a complete picture of their offspring’s social life. Teens are hip to their parents’ interest and are savvy at covering up their digital trail, with more than 80 percent of them reporting they filter Facebook information to restrict parental review, according to another survey from Truste.

Also, to throw parents further off track, greater numbers of teens are turning to Twitter, which they find parents aren’t as facile with, to continue their private conversations.

The Pew Research Center reports that teenagers’ Twitter use has doubled in the past two years. Young people are grasping the unique benefits the site offers, like locking their accounts, creating messages for only selected followers, using anonymous handles and establishing multiple accounts, in the eternal cat-and-mouse games with parental control.

For the kids, understanding Facebook is not as private as they think isn’t necessarily bad news, either.

In a few short years, these kids will be job hunting, and prospective employers are checking an applicant’s Facebook profile as a standard part of the hiring process, even asking job seekers to routinely share passwords.

Once these kids land a job, the Facebook scrutiny is likely to continue, often to their detriment. For example, a U.K. Apple employee was fired for a job-related rant on Facebook, and a New Jersey judge ruled an elementary school teacher who called her students “future criminals” on Facebook should lose her job over the remarks.

School districts are reviewing guidelines to better define the use of social media in classrooms, a move other businesses and industries could emulate as they consider the benefits and drawbacks of social media.

This trend underscores it could be critical for Facebook users, especially younger ones, to demonstrate common sense on how they present themselves on the site.

Parents keeping tabs on their children with Facebook is sparking conversations about reviewing privacy settings and instructing them on general posting guidelines, which might not be the worst thing in the world, considering how central the social network has become in daily life. One of parents’ primary jobs is to prepare their children for the real world — one where Facebook and social media postings are increasingly not private places for personal pictures, immature opinions and juvenile social interactions.

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