Published Online: October 15, 2012
Published in Print: October 17, 2012, as Parents See Benefits in Kids' Facebook Time

Bits & Bytes

Parents See Benefit in Kids' Facebook Time

Parents, it turns out, rarely see Facebook as a danger zone.

A whopping 83 percent of parents think the benefits of their children’s social-media use outweigh or at least balance any perceived risks.

In a national survey by Children’s Mercy, Hospitals and Clinics, almost three-fourths of parents said social media prepare children for success in a digital society and encourage curiosity and collaboration.

The results surprised researchers at Kansas City, Mo.-based Children’s Mercy, given that parents also said they are concerned about child molesters, sexting, and cyberbullying.

More than half of the 728 parents surveyed thought social media made their children more open-minded.

Barely two in five parents worried their children’s online activity could breed social isolation and behavioral problems. Roughly the same number was concerned that children’s virtual lives could get in the way of their real-life social skills and friendships. The expert’s take?

Parental Monitoring

Social-media exposure has many benefits, says Children’s Mercy child psychologist Ed Christophersen, but giving children unlimited and unsupervised access is asking for trouble.

“Most of us did some things as adolescents that we don’t want on the front page of The Kansas City Star,” he says. “And yet we kind of assume blindly that our kids won’t.” Police agree.

“You have a right to demand the password for your children,” Overland Park, Kan., police spokesman Gary Mason says. “They’re your kids, and you should be actively looking at what they put on the Internet.”

Of the parents surveyed, 71 percent believe that 13 is the right age to let their children use Facebook. Christophersen says that’s usually the right choice.

“People keep saying ‘what age, what age, what age?’ Well, it depends on the maturity level,” he says. “If you’ve had a kid that has just been a pain, why would you give them unlimited access to the Internet?”

Facebook restricts children younger than 13 from opening an account, although it’s not uncommon for children to lie about their age when signing up.

Vol. 06, Issue 01, Page 8

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