Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Are Teens Making Digital Tattoos?

Kid's Social Networking Activities May Surprise Parents

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Common Sense Media today released the results of a national poll of teens and parents on social networking behaviors. The poll, conducted by The Benenson Strategy Group, illustrated that kids increasingly connect with friends, classmates, and people with similar interests through social networks – and that parents are out of the loop.

Children may be posting information online that will be regretted in later years, a digital 'tattoo' - including false identities, internet bullying, and nudity. More than 1 out of every 10 teenagers has posted a nude or seminude picture of themselves or others online.

A quarter of the young people polled had posted something they later regretted, made fun of others or created a false identity online.

According to the poll's key findings, teens admit to many behaviors while using social networks:

-    22% of teens check social networking sites more than 10 times a day, while only 4% of parents believe kids are checking that much
-    51% of teens check social networking sites more than once a day, while only 23% of parents say their kids check more than once a day
-    28% have shared personal information that they normally wouldn't have shared in public
-    25% have shared a profile with a false identity
-    39% have posted something they regretted
-    26% have pretended to be someone else online
-    54% have joined an online community or Facebook/MySpace group in support of a cause
-    34% have volunteered for a campaign, nonprofit, or charity

''In today's digital environment, parents have less time to supervise their kids' behavior.'' said James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media. Communication and socialization in our kids' world is increasingly moving from face-to-face to face-to-cyberspace, and parents vastly underestimate the amount of time that kids spend on their networks. That makes it more challenging for parents to actually parent in the crucial areas of social interaction and development, and, in a digital world, parents need to play a more important role than ever in ensuring that our kids get the best of these technologies and are using them safely.

Social networks and mobile communication connect kids to their friends 24/7. For the most part, conversations that start in the classroom hallway more or less continue in digital space. Teens are using social networks to share information, make connections, and develop their identities in new, exciting ways. But when teens communicate either anonymously or through a disguised identity, the doors are left wide open for them to not be held accountable. That kind of communication also leads to a disconnect between actions and their consequences, which is how irresponsible behaviors like cyberbullying become a reality.

Parents are the first line of defense when it comes to helping kids use the same senses of responsibility and self-respect in their online worlds as they do offline. Common Sense Media urges families to keep up regular conversations about life in a digital world and what it means to be safe, smart digital citizens.

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