Children, Teens and Social Networks: The Social Media Privacy Report

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The question to tackle: how do you protect your child’s or teen’s privacy and security if they are a social network user? This is a big bone to pick for parents. The history of this column shows that no matter how old you are, if you are active on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare or Myspace you are placing your online privacy at risk. So what happens when minors start to leave their own digital footprints in cyberspace?

My last post discussed the launch of a new social network, Everloop, especially designed for tweens. Modeled under the standards of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), Everloop has branded itself as a safe and secure social media outlet for children. (To read more about Everloop, click here).

But there are even more networks for children and teens. We discuss them in further details and also tell you what to look for when monitoring your child’s or teen’s account.

Disney and Togetherville

The trend continues; Everloop is geared towards ages eight to thirteen. The Walt Disney Company is apparently shooting for an even younger demographic, as just two weeks ago, the corporation just purchased Togetherville, a social network designed for children under age ten. With the platform of a virtual neighborhood, Togetherville mirrors the experience of other social sites, but in a way that allows parental supervision and moderation of interactions.

The network, like Everloop, is also COPPA compliant. Founder and Chief Executive of Togetherville, Mandeep S. Dhillon, was quoted by The Los Angeles Times saying, “Togetherville is very focused on trying to really reflect what the adult community has been doing on the Web and build a real online experience that adults enjoy for kids, but do it in a safe…way.”

What is Your Teen Hiding from You on Social Networks

The policy for Facebook clearly states that children under thirteen years of age cannot have a profile on the site. But teenagers thirteen through seventeen, who are still minors, can use the network at will. According to a recent study from TRUSTe, 80% of teens use privacy settings on Facebook to hide content from friends or parents. So what exactly are they doing and saying that they want to hide?

According to the same study, kids are also using slang words and abbreviations online; this is a sample:

  • 2lc — Ecstasy
  • %- — Hung over
  • Juggler — Teenage drug dealer
  • YSG –You’re So Gay [gay in the slang derogatory term]
  • GNOC — Get naked on cam
  • DOC — Drug of choice
  • Kicker — Oxycontin
  • Barr — Codeine cough syrup
  • KPC — Keeping Parents Clueless

One way to monitor what your teens are doing and saying when they are using social media is with GoGoStat Parental Guidance which alerts parents about teen language as part of their free online safety application that supervises social media postings by kids. For example, using the application parents can monitor their teen’s activity on Facebook. There are notifications sent if a teen’s post contains vulgarities, drug references, cyberbullying, sexual indicators or references to any other unsafe activity.  There are other elements to the monitoring; for more information visit www.gogostat.com.

“Education around online privacy has a long way to go,” said Ron Stevenson, senior product manager of the application. “Some teens over-share, as do adults, yet the risks for teens are higher. We believe that technology together with regular family discussions can help alleviate some of the dangers of social networking sites.”

What do you think is the right age for a child or teen to begin using a social network? Does your child have an account on one of these sites? How closely to do you watch his or her activity? Are you concerned about your child’s online privacy?

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Jillian Ryan

Jillian Ryan is PRIVATE WiFi's Director, Brand Communications and Social Strategy. With a passion for writing, the web, and fast-paced information exchanged via social networks, Jillian is also concerned about the ramifications of putting your life details and personal data into cyberspace. Follow her on Twitter: @Writing_Jillian.