Online Parenting

Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - 8:35am

The boom in social networking presents new challenges for parents.

Keeping up with teens and their social lives has always been a challenge for parents, and it's become even more challenging with the advent of social networks.

The average Facebook user has 130 friends, but a new survey by Nielsen and AOL reveals the numbers go much higher when you're talking about teens.

"Many teenagers will tell you they have 400, 500, 700 friends," says AOL Consumer Advisor Regina Lewis. "They're 15 years old. They can't possibly know all of those people. They admitted in the survey, 54 percent, that they don't personally know all of those friends."

That's one reason three quarters of the parents surveyed say they're also among their child's Facebook friends, even if their child's not crazy about it.

Many "friended" parents agree not to post comments on their children's Facebook pages, but they still monitor the activity.

25 percent check daily, while 34 percent check at least once or twice a week for things kids might not consider suspicious, like friends with no mutual friends.

Another 20 percent of parents say they've asked their child to 'unfriend' someone.

Almost half the time it was because of inappropriate content.

"It's better to play offense than play defense when it comes to social networking," Lewis says. "It's too integral a part of teenagers lives to ignore."

Half the parents surveyed at least think they're on top of it.

Some parents monitor their kids' online activity by simply looking at everything on their social networking sites, but there are also numerous software products and online services to help
parents do the job.

Products such as Webwatcher, Social Shield, Safe Social and one with the lengthy name of "Gogostat Parental Guidance" are among the many monitoring options to choose from.

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