Call it “monitoring,” “checking up,” “keeping tabs on,” or whatever other generous euphemism you prefer, but most parents -- over three quarters, in fact -- are snooping around their teenage children’s social media profiles, according to a new survey by online coupon purveyor vouchercloud.net. This probably comes as a surprise to approximately nobody. But for those of you wondering about the ethical ramifications, it may be comforting to learn that just 12% of parents feel guilty about conducting social media surveillance. Embrace your inner snoops, people!
Asked about their motives for monitoring their teens’ social media activity:
- 85% of parents surveyed said they wanted to learn more about their children’s lives.
- 83% said they worried that their children might be posting inappropriate content online.
Matthew Wood, the managing editor of vouchercloud.net, explained:
“Snooping may get a bad reputation, but essentially many teenagers don’t want to talk to their parents about their online activity, so a lot of the time parents don’t have much of a choice.”
No question, parents have plenty of reasons to keep tabs on their kids’ social media usage. Earlier this year a survey by Cox Communications and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children found:
- 31% of teens reported being the victim of online bullying.
- 41% of these have told an adult.
The survey's other findings weren’t any more likely to assuage parental anxiety:
- 73% said they had shared personal information or potentially inappropriate content online.
- 73% said they had shared potentially inappropriate photos online.
- 21% said they had shared their phone number.
- 21% said they used curse words online.
- 19% disclosed their physical location online.
- 12% disclosed their home address online.
- 5% made sexual comments or posted sexually-oriented pictures.
A separate survey of British teens found:
- 21% had posted negative comments.
- 26% said they had hijacked someone else’s account to post damaging content.
- 43% said they had exchanged messages with strangers.
On the other side, teens are fully aware that their parents may be snooping, and adopt various countermeasures, according to a 2012 survey by McAfee:
- 71% of teens said they hide their online activity from their parents.
- 56% of parents were aware of this.
- 53.3% of teens said they clear their browser history.
- 45.9% minimize browsers when their parents are around.
- 18.9% delete inappropriate videos.
- 19.9% manipulate privacy settings to block their parents.
Meanwhile continuing shifts in social media usage patterns will make it harder for parents to keep up. A recent survey from Project Tomorrow, a non-profit organization focused on digital technology for education, confirmed that teenagers are leaving social networks like Facebook in favor of social apps. In their survey of 2013 they found:
- 30% of middle school students said they are maintaining a profile on a social network site.
- 39% of high school students said they are maintaining a profile on a social networking site, down 40% from 2009.
- The drop in social network use has been accompanied by a rise in social apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine, which are now used by 44% of students in grades 6-12.
COMMENTARY: According to an earlier study by Education Database Online conducted in 2013, it was found that nearly half of all parents using Facebook have joined to spy on their kids.43 percent of parents check their child’s Facebook profile daily. The study also discovered that 31 percent of parents check their kids account four to five times per week.
Not all parents pry as often, 14 percent of Facebook using parents reported only “sporadically” checking out their kids pages and 11 percent said they check their kids out on Facebook once a month.
One percent of parents using Facebook say they never check out their child’s Facebook profile.
The study also found that 41 percent of parents are most interested in status updates, while 39 percent care about what other people post on their kids wall. 29 percent of Facebook spying parents are most interested in the photos their kids are tagged in.
With approximately 17.5 million Facebook users believed to be under the age of 13 the number of Facebook spying parents is only likely to increase.
Here is the full Education Database Online study in infographic form: