Know! The Importance of Face Time

A new Consumer Report shows that in the U.S. an approximate 12.5 million teens and 7.5 million preteens are on Facebook.1 If your child is a social network user, you should be too. You can learn a lot about your son or daughter, just by viewing his/her profile page and comments and photos can provide valuable parental insight (favorite music, TV shows, relationship status, friend connections, etc).

The good news is, this message has caught on, as 87% of parents and youth on Facebook are reportedly “friends” with each other. 2 But parents take caution: While this connection will help keep you updated on some of your child’s likes and dislikes, don’t count on it to give you the full picture of his/her social interests or happenings. In this same survey, 83% of teens said they know how to use social network privacy settings to hide things from their parents.2

And PARENTS BEWARE: More than half of all youth are discussing drugs, sex and violence on their social networking sites.3

With that in mind, it is no wonder parents acquire their child’s password (either with or without the child’s knowledge) and regularly check incoming and outgoing messages to keep tabs. But today’s teens are smart, and many times, much more tech savvy than parents realize. Once they are aware parents are monitoring their “not-so-secret” chats, they will likely seek out and find other forms of private communication (with or without your knowledge), and you are back to square one.

As parents, the best protection we can provide our children is good-old-fashioned information, face-to-face conversation and parental guidance. Being a Facebook Friend is good online parenting, but being an active, offline parent is invaluable.

PARENTS: In these high-tech times, Know! suggests you step out of the virtual world and get some face time with your child. Go out for ice cream, talk, listen, discuss and find out what’s happening in your child’s real-life world.

Sources: 1. Consumer Reports Magazine (June 2011). 2. Christian Science Monitor - Computer security: Parents, teenagers take risks online (June 2011). 3. CNN Health - Study: Teens on MySpace mention sex, violence (Jan. 2009).