Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dear Parent, Do you know what your kids are doing on line? Common Sense Media has conducted a survey to find out and a summary of their findings is below. Every parent needs to read this report.

Social Networks and Teen Lives

By Common Sense Media
August 10, 2009

Face-to-face or -to-cyberspace?

Common Sense Media conducted a survey to examine how social networks were affecting kids and families. The results? Kids increasingly connect with friends, classmates, and people with similar interests through social networks -- often outside their parents' awareness.

The poll results illustrate a continuing disconnect between parents and kids when it comes to kids' digital lives. In today's society, there's more technology and less time for parents to supervise their kids' actions and behaviors on
Facebook, MySpace, or any other digital environment. Communication and socialization in our kids' world is increasingly moving from face-to-face to face-to-cyberspace. Families need to keep up regular conversations about life in a digital world and what it means to be a safe, smart digital citizen -- including ethical behavior, privacy, bullying, and reputation management.

The call to action is clear: Parents are the first line of defense when it comes to helping our kids use the same senses of responsibility and self-respect whether they're online or off.

Social networks and mobile communication connect our kids to their friends 24/7. For the most part, conversations begun in the classroom hallway more or less continue in the digital space. But there are differences between face-to-face communication and digital communication. It's important to understand how technology is changing the nature of how our kids learn to communicate.

Social networks are highly immersive

Common Sense recently researched how often teens are engaged in their social networks; 22% of teens said they checked their pages more than 10 times a day. That finding becomes more telling when you consider how much less frequently kids are actually talking to each other or connecting face-to-face (2,200-plus texts a month, versus only 200 phone calls, according to Nielsen). Whether they're accessing social networks on their phones, in school, or at home, this means that kids are talking less and posting more.

Many teens disguise who they are

And in an online culture, it's quite possible to be someone else. Of the teens in our survey, 25% said that they had created social network pages under a different identity. On the positive side, the anonymous nature of social networking makes it a relatively safe space for kids to try on different hats and figure out who they are and who they want to be. These sites provide an opportunity to connect in a way that, for lots of reasons, kids may not feel comfortable doing otherwise.

But there's another implication here: Kids can communicate with others under an assumed name. Another 24% of teens said that they had hacked into someone else's social network, giving them the ability to communicate as that person. Since developing trust is such a fundamental part of childhood, the notions of who and what you can trust online have to be discussed with kids.

Finally, when kids communicate anonymously or through a disguised identity, the doors open for lack of accountability. This separation of action and consequence has made irresponsible behavior like cyberbullying possible.

Parents are out of the loop

As our kids increasingly communicate through social networks, parents are cut out of the process of hearing how and what they say to each other. Our research showed that parents vastly underestimate how much time kids spend on social networks. This makes it hard for parents to parent in the crucial areas of social interaction and development.

The importance of privacy

The social networks that connect our kids offer wonderful opportunities for rich interactions and sharing. But sometimes kids can over share, not thinking about the fact that whatever they're doing is taking place before a vast, invisible audience. To protect their privacy (and their reputations), our teens must learn to think before they post. Because they lose control of whatever they put on their network pages. Anything can be cut, pasted, altered, and distributed in the blink of an eye. And once it's been sent around, it's next to impossible to take down.

To read the complete report, check out their link below.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What parents think teens are doing on social networks, and what the teens are actually doing.

August 9, 2009

Teens may not be into Twitter, but 51% say they log into a social network such as Facebook at least once a day.

Do you know where your teens are on the Web tonight?

Most parents aren't surprised by the most likely answer: social networks. But they may be unsettled by what their kids are doing on those sites, according to a survey to be released Monday by Common Sense Media, a San Francisco advocacy group.

The survey polled 1,013 teens and 1,002 parents. The bottom line: Parents consistently underestimate how much time their kids spend on social networks and how often they engage in risky behavior, such as posting revealing photos of themselves, bullying other kids or hacking into their friends' accounts. The study mirrors an earlier report from Common Sense Media on kids using technology to cheat in school.

Here's a sample of the new report's findings:

37% of teens said they used social networks to make fun of other students, but only 18% of parents believe their own angels do so.

13% of teens said they posted naked or semi-naked photos or videos of themselves. Only 2% of parents said their kids have done that.

24% of teens said they signed on to someone else's account without permission, while only 4% of parents said their kids have done that.

28% of teens posted personal information that they normally would not have revealed in public, but 16% of parents said their kids did that.

What to do? Common Sense suggests ...

... parents first learn about these networks by registering and exploring the networks their children are in. Because Facebook and MySpace don't allow kids under 13 to open accounts, parents with younger children should check their browsers' histories to see where their kids are going.

For parents of teens who are already on social networks, Common Sense suggested they talk with their kids about privacy settings, whom not to friend and precautions to take when posting personal information.

"Remind teens that everything they post can essentially be seen by a vast, invisible audience," the group said in its report. "And tell them that online stuff can last forever. If they wouldn't put something on the hallway in school, they shouldn't post it on their pages."

-- Alex Pham

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Teens losing sleep to electronic distractions


To many parents, text messaging is an enigma -- a practice their children engage in when they could just make a phone call or walk down the street to their friends' houses. It seems to be a strange but harmless means of communication.

What most don't know is that too much texting can be detrimental to their teens' health. That's because new technologies, such as cell phones and social networking sites, give teens easy access to their friends 24 hours a day.

"The more technology we develop, the more we rely on technology," said Dr. Myrza Perez, a pediatric pulmonologist in California. A specialist in sleep disorders, she says "before technology, we went to sleep when the sun went down. Now, with all these distractions, teenagers alone in their rooms stay up to extremely late hours on their cell phones and computers. Their parents have no idea."

Sleep deprivation is leading to many daytime problems for teenagers, including headaches, impaired concentration and hyperactive behavior often misconstrued as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Often these symptoms are interpreted by doctors as problems meriting medication, when the best cure might be to turn off their phones at night.

Mikaela Espinoza, 17, of Sacramento, Calif., always used to sleep with her phone at her bedside, just in case a friend called or text-messaged her in the middle of the night.

"Whenever I'd hear my phone ring I would just, like, wake up and answer it," she said. "I think a whole bunch of kids text all night long."

Espinoza soon found herself suffering from migraine headaches throughout the day. Her primary physician's first instinct was to check her eyes. When that yielded no solutions, he sent her in for a CAT scan. It came back clear.

Eventually, Espinoza was diagnosed with a condition growing more common among teens: too much texting.

After her parents realized she wasn't sleeping enough, "They told me I needed to turn off my phone or have it taken away from me at night," she said.