Most parents are concerned about the risks social networks pose to their kids, but now many know how to protect their kids online, and even fewer parents use the necessary tools and techniques to ensure their children’s safety, according to a new survey.
The nationwide study of over 1,000 parents of teens 15 or younger was commissioned by SocialShield.
The SocialShield study, conducted by research firm MarketTools, shows that over 40% of parents polled were aware of one or more of such incidents happening to their child or a friend of their child, and, of course, that does not include the incidents they are unaware of. Parents are certainly not taking the situation lightly, as 80% of those surveyed claim that they “actively monitor” their child’s social networking behavior.
But the major parental problem is that most of these parents do not realize that their approach to monitoring falls way short of what is really needed to keep their children safe online.
“Social Networking is very, very different and potentially much more risky than something like viewing inappropriate content,” said SocialShield CEO George Garrick. “It is not at all enough to use simple filtering software, impose time limits, put the computer in a common area of the house, or occasionally look at your child’s account. And the major computer protection and filtering brands like McAfee, Symantec / Norton, NetNanny, Cybersitter, etc. do not probe deeply enough into the social graph and the child’s interactions to detect potentially dangerous situations.”
“Also, the child can access the social network from any computer or a smartphone, thus avoiding the filters or restrictions entirely. One of the biggest threats (especially as college recruiters and employers increasingly look at social network profiles) is not what your child does or says, but what others may post about your child with photos, videos, or in text.”
“Even if you have access to your child’s account and know where to look, reviewing all of the postings from their dozens or hundreds of ‘friends’, it would take you countless hours a week to keep up and require using several spreadsheets and checking multiple databases like sex offender registries. And you’d have to do this almost in real time to avoid a dangerous delay.”
The SocialShield survey identified parents’ top concerns about social networks as: being contacted by inappropriate strangers; broadcasting location information which is viewable by strangers; exposure to inappropriate content such as drugs, violence and pornography; and posting information that could tarnish the child’s reputation and affect school suspension, college admissions or job prospects; and, of course, cyberbullying.
Continued Garrick, “Some 95% of parents said they use specialized software to protect their computers against viruses, yet only 12% said they have installed software specifically designed to monitor social networks daily, such as SocialShield, SafetyWeb, or Check Point / ZoneAlarm SocialGuard. This tells us there is a lot of education that has to happen on the risks social networks pose and how to best protect kids against them.”
“Perhaps the most interesting result of the survey was that most parents reported that their young teens have either friended them, or have given parents their log-in credentials. SocialShield’s patent-pending technology is designed for just such parents. And, the good news is that as awareness of the need for social network protection grows, most kids realize that it’s a good thing intended to protect, not spy on, them.”