McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Technology can tell parents how fast their teen is driving or where he is at any given time with ease.
It can also tell parents what their teen is thinking, but by very different means.
More than three quarters of parents are snooping on their children through social media, and only 12 percent feel guilty about it, according to an online behavior survey conducted by coupon site vouchercloud.net.
Eighty-five percent of parents reported they wanted to learn more about their child's life, while 83 percent were concerned about inappropriate content being posted by their child online, according to the survey.
"Snooping may get a bad reputation, but essentially many teenagers don't want to talk to their parents about their online activity, so a lot of the time parents don't have much of a choice," said Matthew Wood, managing editor of vouchercloud.net.
Wood suggests creating an open dialogue with teens rather than assuming the role of Nancy Drew.
Lisa Belkin, a mother and senior columnist at The Huffington Post, defended her own snooping under the logic that she was paying for the device and had a right to read what was on it.
However, she regretted the secrecy.
"Part of the lesson we want to teach is that anything you send can be read by anyone, and the best way to make that point is to make it clear that you are the first of those anyones," Belkin wrote ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/17/snooping-on-kids-cellphones_n_4116688.html ).
Despite the overwhelming majority of parents who feel the need to scroll through their teenager's phone or Facebook to stalk them, other parents look at their children case-by-case.
On the public forum Circle of Moms, one mother said she sees her sons' different behaviors regarding social media and acts accordingly, while another mom lives by the "your business is my business" rule with her daughter.
Rather than prying, Wood suggests: "The key thing is for parents to work hard to keep communication open with their children, meaning that snooping isn't their only way of accessing this kind of information and peace of mind."
Parent participants in the survey were asked "How regularly does your teenager use social media?" The majority of the parents taking part (82 percent) said that, as far as they were aware, their child or children used social media "every day, more than once." They identified the devices that their teenagers used in order to access their social media accounts, with the most popular devices being cell phones (85 percent), laptops (81 percent) and tablet computers (66 percent).
Later in the survey, parents were asked how they felt about their child's social media usage, with two-thirds of them (65 percent) selecting answers that indicate they think it is "used too much" and two-fifths (41 percent) described the rising trend of social media as "very worrying."
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