Parental Monitoring On Social Media: How Much is Too Much?

Is it really a good idea for parents to helicopter over their kids in a mixed public and private space that is social media?

As having a presence on social media sites becomes more prevalent among younger teens, parental monitoring on social media on the rise. But is that really a good idea in a mixed public and private space?

Teens who create a social media profile, especially if it is their first, may have no real concept of exactly what their privacy settings do. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, nearly 70 percent of parents are concerned that their kids’ online activity could have a negative long-term impact. 60 percent are worried about their kids’ ability to manage their online reputation. Indeed, what does a teenager know about reputation management, online or otherwise? Even for the savviest of users, the frequently updated terms of service and user agreements make staying on top of things a challenge.

With a relatively small online presence, social media profiles and postings would likely be the first thing that shows up if someone were to search a specific name. And given the potentially highly public nature of Facebook, the worries of parents may not seem so unfounded. Aside from the concerns of cyber-bullying, post about underage drinking or even criminal activity there is now the concern of ruining a reputation that’s barely on its feet.

Parents are able to spy on their children much easier these days and many take advantage of that. Huffington Post cited a study indicating that 50 percent of parents joined a social network specifically to spy on their kids. 93 percent of those parents check their children’s profiles daily, keeping a close eye on pictures, status updates, location checkins and even the profiles of their children’s friends.

Lenore Skenazy, author of Free Range Kids and the blog by the same name, touches on just how much is too much. A school district in California hired a firm to monitor the public social media posts of its 13,500 students. This kind of overkill she says, is treating kids like they are “in some kind of mental facility where everyone must be monitored.”

It’s understandable that a parent would worry about their child, online or anywhere. But driving their life for them, intervening at every step and not allowing them any privacy online is going to cause a lot more problems than your kid tweeting that his math teacher is stupid.