Dear Parent, Do you know what your kids are doing on line? Common Sense Media has conducted a survey to find out and a summary of their findings is below. Every parent needs to read this report.

Social Networks and Teen Lives

By Common Sense Media
August 10, 2009

Face-to-face or -to-cyberspace?

Common Sense Media conducted a survey to examine how social networks were affecting kids and families. The results? Kids increasingly connect with friends, classmates, and people with similar interests through social networks -- often outside their parents' awareness.

The poll results illustrate a continuing disconnect between parents and kids when it comes to kids' digital lives. In today's society, there's more technology and less time for parents to supervise their kids' actions and behaviors on
Facebook, MySpace, or any other digital environment. Communication and socialization in our kids' world is increasingly moving from face-to-face to face-to-cyberspace. Families need to keep up regular conversations about life in a digital world and what it means to be a safe, smart digital citizen -- including ethical behavior, privacy, bullying, and reputation management.

The call to action is clear: Parents are the first line of defense when it comes to helping our kids use the same senses of responsibility and self-respect whether they're online or off.

Social networks and mobile communication connect our kids to their friends 24/7. For the most part, conversations begun in the classroom hallway more or less continue in the digital space. But there are differences between face-to-face communication and digital communication. It's important to understand how technology is changing the nature of how our kids learn to communicate.

Social networks are highly immersive

Common Sense recently researched how often teens are engaged in their social networks; 22% of teens said they checked their pages more than 10 times a day. That finding becomes more telling when you consider how much less frequently kids are actually talking to each other or connecting face-to-face (2,200-plus texts a month, versus only 200 phone calls, according to Nielsen). Whether they're accessing social networks on their phones, in school, or at home, this means that kids are talking less and posting more.

Many teens disguise who they are

And in an online culture, it's quite possible to be someone else. Of the teens in our survey, 25% said that they had created social network pages under a different identity. On the positive side, the anonymous nature of social networking makes it a relatively safe space for kids to try on different hats and figure out who they are and who they want to be. These sites provide an opportunity to connect in a way that, for lots of reasons, kids may not feel comfortable doing otherwise.

But there's another implication here: Kids can communicate with others under an assumed name. Another 24% of teens said that they had hacked into someone else's social network, giving them the ability to communicate as that person. Since developing trust is such a fundamental part of childhood, the notions of who and what you can trust online have to be discussed with kids.

Finally, when kids communicate anonymously or through a disguised identity, the doors open for lack of accountability. This separation of action and consequence has made irresponsible behavior like cyberbullying possible.

Parents are out of the loop

As our kids increasingly communicate through social networks, parents are cut out of the process of hearing how and what they say to each other. Our research showed that parents vastly underestimate how much time kids spend on social networks. This makes it hard for parents to parent in the crucial areas of social interaction and development.

The importance of privacy

The social networks that connect our kids offer wonderful opportunities for rich interactions and sharing. But sometimes kids can over share, not thinking about the fact that whatever they're doing is taking place before a vast, invisible audience. To protect their privacy (and their reputations), our teens must learn to think before they post. Because they lose control of whatever they put on their network pages. Anything can be cut, pasted, altered, and distributed in the blink of an eye. And once it's been sent around, it's next to impossible to take down.

To read the complete report, check out their link below.


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