Do You Know What Your Kids are Doing on MySpace? It’s Not as Scary as You’ve Heard and You CAN Keep Them Safe (page 2)
In this sudy, three important questions were studied: (1) How prevalent are Internet and MySpace dangers? (2) How aware are parents about what their children and adolescents are doing on MySpace, and (3) What role does parenting play in the online experiences of children?
In this study 1,091 pre-teens and teens that are on MySpace as well as one of their parents were interviewed. The study was designed by inviting a variety of parent-teen pairs to go to an online, anonymous survey website. First the parent, in the privacy of his or her home, answered a series of questions about (1) personal Internet and MySpace experience; (2) their beliefs about what their children are doing online; (3) their understanding of the threats of sexual predators, cyberbullies, pornography, Internet addiction and other highly publicized MySpace fears; (4) their parenting style; and (5) how they monitored and limited their child's use of MySpace and other technologies. The fact that they were answering these questions without providing any identifying information led to extremely honest, and often blunt answers and admissions.
This study is the first of its kind to anonymously interview parents and teens and allow them to speak their minds without worrying about anyone knowing their "business." We continue to follow this model for research using anonymous websites to collect data on important, sensitive social issues.
The findings of the study were astounding:
- Pre-teens and teens were spending many hours per week using MySpace and many parents were unaware of how this social network had become a major focus for their children's social lives.
- The vast majority of parents had not seen or rarely looked at their child's MySpace page.
- Parents were way more concerned about how often their children faced potential MySpace and Internet problems than their children's true online experiences.
- Although parents worried about their children disclosing personal information online, they vastly overestimated the actual amount of self-disclosure.
- Two thirds of parents were convinced that there were many sexual predators roaming MySpace while very few of their children had been approached. Parents felt that the media was doing a good job accurately reporting problems with online behavior while their children told us that their parents' fears were overblown and a false moral panic was being spread by the media.
- A small number of teens (around one in seven) admitted that they had been "sexually solicited" but most of these improper requests were from peers, not older sex offenders, and 9 of 10 teens handled the experience appropriately (ignoring the request, blocking the person from their page, telling an adult) and only a few teens said they felt mildly upset by these experiences.
- Very few teens were cyberbullied (less than one in ten) and again they handled the bullying appropriately and with ease.
- Some teens were exposed to pornography (one out of seven) or sexual talk (one out of two) but again, they handled these experiences appropriately.
- Parents used one of four parenting styles: (1) Authoritative where they set limits but did so by talking about them with their children and getting input from their children; (2) Authoritarian where they set limits without talking with their children ("my way or the highway"); and (3) Indulgent/Neglectful where parents let their children do as they pleased on the computer. Half the parents were Indulgent/Neglectful, while one-third were Authoritative and one-sixth were Authoritarian. By the way, nearly all children and parents agreed on the parenting style!
- Parenting style was related to EVERYTHING we studied. Children of Authoritative parents showed more intimacy with and attachment to their parents, had more social confidence, disclosed less personal information online, were less likely to meet someone who they first met online, viewed less pornography online, were less depressed, were less likely to become addicted to the Internet and had a more positive self-esteem. Authoritative parents set more clear limits on their children's online behavior, paid more attention to their MySpace activities, placed the computer in a common area rather than in the teen's bedroom, and were more likely to have created their own MySpace page.
Learn the four guidelines to help guide parents on social media use and their children. (link to next article)
Reprinted with the permission of Dr. Larry D. Rosen. © 1997-2008 Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D.
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