Findings from The ITRC’s Parenting and Social Media Study

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The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) recently conducted a survey which attempted to measure the actions and level of concern parents have in relation to their children’s social media activity.  This study was conducted in order to better understand how aware parents are of the potential dangers social media pose to their children, and how adept they are in their attempts to keep their children safe.  It goes without saying (almost) that social media is an ever more prevalent aspect in modern life, especially so in our youngest age demographics.  ITRC therefore felt that sampling parent awareness towards social media would be a relevant area of study in the ever-changing identity security field.

The study was conducted through ITRC’s own connection to various social media channels and received a total of 207 responses.  Though the sample size was admittedly small, the results still served to provide a few useful insights into how parents are dealing with this decidedly new and still developing issue.

The study shows that the majority of parents are very concerned about their children’s online activities.  The ITRC found that a large majority (67%) of parents were “very concerned” about their children’s online activity and the corresponding need to educate and protect their children from the associated risks of social media use.  In addition to this awareness, the study found that 83% of parents had taken steps, by either speaking to their children about the risks of social media use or by limiting their privacy settings themselves, to protect their children’s identities.  The majority of these parents said that their children first began actively using social media programs between the ages of 13 and 15.  Recent research from Top Ten Reviews found that 55% of teens have given personal information on Facebook to someone they didn’t know, so clearly there is a need for parents to be educated and involved with their children in this area (http://facebook-parental-controls-review.toptenreviews.com/30-statistics-about-teens-and-social-networking.html)  Currently Facebook is considering allowing children under the age of 13 to start Facebook accounts, making this topic especially relevant.

An overwhelming 91% of those surveyed stated that their children actively engage in social media.  While this number must be taken with a grain of salt as those who are already actively informed on the subject matter were no doubt more likely to take the survey, that still is a very large number.  While there clearly was an overwhelming issue of concern, ITRC also noticed a significant disparity between concern and behavioral change among consumers.  The study found that only 58% of parents took a strong stance on monitoring their children’s social networking accounts by obtaining their children’s passwords and checking regularly to make sure their usage is safe.

Overall the study found that while most parents are aware of the potential dangers and expressed concern, the percentage who were taking strong direct action to do anything about it was somewhat lower.  While overall the results were encouraging, there is no doubt that current trends of younger and younger engagement will push parents to become more involved.  As most cellular phones are now wired to the internet and connect to social media platforms with ease, the importance of parents being aware of the multiple access points children have at their disposal is continuing to rise as well.  Education and involvement as with any other aspect of parenting is clearly of paramount importance.

 

 

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Nikki Junker

Nikki Junker is Social Media Coordinator and Victim Advisor at The Identity Theft Resource Center. She specializes in Identity Theft on social networks and smartphones. She enjoys working one on one with victims of identity theft as well as researching and writing about preventative measures for consumers.