That’s one of the take aways from two research projects looking into kids digital lives.
Cable in the Classroom and the Family Online Safety Institute worked with and helped underwrite a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, “Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites“. The good news is that parents play an important role in their child’s digital life. According to the report,
“Virtually all parents of online teens (98%) have talked to their children about the way to behave online and cope with problems in sometimes-challenging internet realms. These important conversations do not appear to have fallen on deaf ears; when we asked teens about the conversations they had with their parents, there was considerable overlap in the topics covered. Parents and teens report that they have discussed a wide range of safety and behavioral issues that relate to online life.”
Teens reported generally positive experiences online but, if they did experience difficulties, who did they turn to for advice and help? Eighty-six percent of the surveyed teens report having received advice from a parent. Seventy percent reported getting advice from a teacher.
The survey did not determine whether the advice was helpful, but the large numbers indicate parents are actively involved with their children’s digital lives and that kids are listening, even if they don’t always seem to be hearing what mom or dad is saying.
In a second research paper, Danah Boyd and colleagues looked at children under 13 who were on Facebook. The social network has a policy prohibiting anyone under 13 from joining. However, several reports have shown that substantial numbers of underage children are Facebook users.
“Why parents help their children lie to Facebook about age: Unintended consequences of the ‘Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act’” reports that more than half of parents of 12-year-olds say their child has a Facebook account and more than three quarters of those helped their child set up the account.
Parents were deciding when it made sense for their child to participate in Facebook based on a variety of factors. In fact, 93% of parents say they should have the final say about when their child accesses an online service like Facebook.
Whether or not you think helping kids lie about their age to join Facebook is a good thing, Boyd’s report, along with the Pew Internet data indicate that parents still play an important role in their child’s digital world.
If you want to be ready with the best advice and most up-to-date information when your child is ready to go online or comes to you with an online problem, keep coming back to Cable in the Classroom, iKeepSafe, or iKeepCurrent—where parents can always have timely cutting edge information pulled straight from the news.
Frank Gallagher is Executive Director of Cable in the Classroom (CIC), the education foundation of the cable telecommunications industry. He is a specialist in media and information literacy, internet safety, digital citizenship, and the impact of media on children and is a former middle school math teacher.