Two-thirds of parents spy “regularly” on children’s social media accounts

Social media accounts are the hubs of young people’s lives, but today’s youngsters would do well to check their friends lists and privacy settings – two-thirds of parents check social media accounts without their chldren’s knolwedge.

The poll, of 2,105 UK parents focused on the social media use of children aged 13-16, and was conducted by voucher company VoucherCloud. Facebook’s legal minimum age is 13, although children much younger than this use the site – previous research by the London School of Economics found that 43% of children aged nine to 12 used the site, according to a BBC report.

Two-thirds of the respondents to the survey admitted to using various methods to check on children “without their knowledge.” Of those polled, 81% of parents said that their children used social media, while 19% said they either did not, or that they were unaware whether they did.

This revealed that 73% of the children that used social media were on Facebook, making it the most popular site, whilst 56% were on Twitter. A further 49% used Instagram.

Many parents made sure to be aware of the passwords for such accounts – and used this sign into the accounts without the knowledge of their children. More than half (55%) admitted to this, and a third (31%) did so “on a regular basis”.

Two-thirds of parents – 67% – also searched for their children’s profiles online to monitor them anonymously. It’s widely known, though, that children often use fake names on social sites, to avoid monitoring by either schools or parents – a tactic employed frequently by cyberbullies according to youth research agency Family, Kids and Youth, as reported by The Guardian.

Parents were asked, ‘Do you know the passwords to either your children’s personal email account or any of their social media accounts?’. 45% of the parents claimed to know their child/children’s email password, whilst 36% knew their social media login details for at least one of their profiles.

Most parents admitted that their prime concern was “safety”. A further third sayid that they did so simply to check what their children were up to – as ‘they didn’t tell them anything.’

Nick Bagot, a 42-year-old London parent, said that parents often ‘shared’ accounts such as Apple IDs which allowed further monitoring: “Using the same Apple ID across several products – an iPad, an iPhone, a Mac – allows me to monitor my children’s emails and texts via iMessage. Children often forget that this is even possible.”

One-fifth of those surveyed had found something ‘incriminating’ by snooping on social accounts, and of those, more than half (53%) had confronted their children about this.

Those parents who confronted their child/children were asked ‘Did you confess that you’d checked up on their social media or email account(s)?’ to which 38% said ‘yes’, but the majority, 62%, made out that they’d found out ‘by other means’.

Matthew Wood of vouchercloud made the following comment:”Today’s world can often come across as a sinister place to parents. Media coverage of social media related nightmares is widespread, so it’s no surprise that they’re wary of what their children are up to. Are they sexting? Are they talking to strangers online? It seems that many parents think the only way to find out is via stealth.”

“It’s sad to see that some parents feel the only way they can assess what their children are up to is via a sly look at their social media. Is this indicative of the modern world? This might be the case, but teenagers have always been well known for their secretive ways, so perhaps parents shouldn’t take it to heart too much and should just accept it’s one of those phases.”

Writing for SafeSoundFamily ESET Senior Research Fellow David Harley says that parents should use the internet with their children, starting as early as pre-school age – and the key is a “gentle, guided introduction.”

Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security

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