As fast as technological advances spawn new social media outlets, teens readily create accounts on these new social networks and spend much of their free time online. Around 81% of teens use social media and 65% of teens with social media accounts log on more than once a day. With many teens signing on to sites and sharing personal information, do they consider privacy settings, information they display, or the short- and long-term effects of displaying such information? The shocking truth is very few do.
Do you know what your children display on their social media accounts? Technological advancements spawn new social media outlets, and teens flock to the websites, ready to share personal information to millions of strangers. Online predators follow suit, racing to social networking sites, eager to find individuals ready to share personal information so they can exploit them. Few children consider the consequences of the information they share online, not realizing 82% of cyber stalkers use social media to find information about potential victims and 65% of cyber stalkers use social media to discover where kids live and what school they attend. Teens will even get creative with their privacy settings and hide information they should be sharing from their parents.
Social networks are launched or changed frequently. Facebook remains the most-used network between ages 12-24, but other social networks are growing in popularity.
The average teen using social media has 300 Facebook friends, 79 Twitter followers, 150 Instagram followers, and receives more “snaps” from Snapchat than texts. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are used mainly to share images through their mobile device. 21% of teens believe using a mobile device allows them to hide information from their parents more effectively.
Social networks are notorious for having complex privacy settings, but are teens or parents concerned about privacy? Only 9% of teens said they are “very concerned” about privacy on social media sites while 78% of teens said they felt in control of their social networking sites.
Teen Levels of Concern about Online Privacy
An additional 70% believe they understand privacy protection on Facebook, but only 40% of teens keep their Facebook profiles private. When teens do show concern for social media privacy, they focus on hiding things from:
Rather than focusing on:
50% of parents believe teens tell them everything they do online but don’t realize that 70% of teens hide their online behavior from their parents and 25% of teens say their parents know “little” or nothing” about their online behaviors. Teens hide their behavior through a variety of surreptitious methods:
Hiding information is not the only method teens use to avoid trouble. The Pew Internet study found 26% of teen social media users post fake information such as a false name, age, or location and 8% of teens create separate social media accounts, connecting with parents on one account and using the other to share more content and interact with people.
Teens will also use what is referred to as “social steganography,” a method of hiding information in plain sight by posting to social media using vague language such as “not being in a happy state” or acronyms to open communication amongst a select group of individuals.
Teens may feel they control their privacy settings and are able to hide information they share on social media from their parents. However, teens share information that puts them at risk.
Most alarming is 33% of teens are friends with people they’ve never met off-line (click to tweet this stat) and a third of teenagers who meet people online have then met up with some of these people face-to-face.
When teens “friend” individuals they don’t know or share sensitive information on social networking sites, they are at greater risk of encountering a predator online.
Online predators research current trends and use them to open conversation with children and teens. Once they have a teen’s interest, they listen to and sympathize with their problems and begin to seduce children by lavishing them with attention, affection, kindness, and even gifts.
Predators slowly introduce sexual content into their conversations and begin to evaluate children as prospective candidates to meet in person.
100% of victims of online sexual predators have gone willingly to meet with the predator.
Online predators are difficult to identify because of the drastic difference of how they represent themselves in person and online. Online predators seek children that appear vulnerable, lonely, sheltered, or naïve. Predators also focus on teens that have access to accounts with private messaging.
While Facebook remains the most prevalent site for social media stalking, emerging social networks are creating other opportunities:
Parents should also note emerging social networks such as Bebo, Hyper, Ello, and Tumblr as they have shown growth in popularity amongst teens.
More parents are concerned that their teenager’s online activity puts them at risk while possibly hurting future career options as well. More parents are observing, discussing, and monitoring their teen’s digital footprints.
72% of parents of online teens are concerned about how their child interacts online with people they do not know, with some 53% of parents being “very” concerned.
This video explains how parents must communicate with their children about internet safety.
When parents talk to teens about internet safety and security, teens are 40% less likely to consider meeting someone face-to-face with whom they only know from the internet. 50% of teens also said they would change their behavior if they knew their parent was watching.
Parents can talk to teens about internet security in a variety of ways:
Opening communication with teens encourages discussion around and allows parents and teens to communicate about troubling situations. Having healthy communication can assure parents that their teen is using social networks in a safe way and prevents teens from engaging with online predators.