Most parents secretly access teens’ Facebook accounts

For generations, parents have been suspicious of teens’ social activities – and have employed any number of tactics to uncover the truth. Today’s parents are no exception; they simply have more channels to monitor.

AVG Technologies revealed that 60 percent of American parents surveyed admit to accessing teens’ Facebook accounts without their knowledge, with moms most likely to be the guilty party.

AVG’s global, multi-year, Digital Diaries research project has aimed to determine how the Internet is impacting children as they play, learn, and grow up in today’s digital world. Entitled Digital Coming of Age, the latest phase of the study surveyed 4,400 parents with 14-17 year olds in 11 countries.

To begin, findings show that 75 percent of American parents stay connected to their children on social networks, which is significantly more than parents in other countries. Across the globe, it’s less common for parents to be “friends” with their teens on Facebook to be able to monitor the activity teens permit them to see through their privacy settings. In fact, this number is as low as 10 percent in Japan and 33 percent in France.

American parents are keeping tabs on their teens’ online activity. A majority of moms and dads actually give their children credit for doing the right thing and have minimal concerns about illegal, inappropriate and career-damaging behaviors, however they continue to monitor their teens in today’s connected age.

The study revealed:

  • Twenty percent suspect their children are accessing pornography or illegal music downloads; and 5 percent suspect their children of gambling.
  • Twenty percent of American parents also suspect their teens of “sexting” via their mobile phones.
  • Almost half of parents in the U.S. believe their teens conduct relationships with friends and family via their mobile phones, yet only 9 percent think these relationships are sexual.
  • An overwhelming 80 percent of parents believe their teens have never met someone in person that they first met online.

“Is it spying or is it good parenting when parents closely monitor teens’ online activity?” asks Tony Anscombe, senior evangelist for AVG Technologies. “Parenting teens that have grown up alongside the Internet and with mobile phones in hand requires an entirely new set of rules and tactics. Our research reveals that while parents trust their teens to do the right thing, such as avoiding pornography on the Internet and “sexting,” they are still concerned about their children’s safety and how teens’ online behavior may affect their future careers.”

Forty percent of American parents worry the content their children post to Facebook and other social networks will affect their children’s job prospects down the road. Adding to this stress, less than 50 percent of American parents feel their child’s school is doing a good job preparing their students for the online world. They aren’t alone in their concerns. Digital Coming of Age found that nearly half of all parents around the globe felt that schools were not effective in teaching their teens to responsibly use the Internet.

“In a very short period of time we have seen amazing changes in the ways we communicate and gather information because of digital technologies. Cell phones, video games and the Internet blur boundaries and change rules. This of course affects families and especially families with teens between the ages of 14-17 who are coming of age with these digital tools,” said Jason Brand, licensed clinical social worker who focuses on the impact of technology on the social and emotional development of kids. “It’s important for parents with older teens to have access to research and practical advice to help them adequately address their concerns. With good information about this rapidly changing area in teens’ lives; parents can know what to expect, understand what’s normal and identify possible red flags.”

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