How Often Are Your Kids on Social Networks?

Teensonline_iStock_000005580773XSmall We parents of teens know social networks like Facebook are a big part of their social lives, just as we know texting on phones has replaced calling for lots of back-and-forth chit chat. But Common Sense Media recently took a look at kids’ actual social network activity versus parents’ perception of how often they check in with friends online, and the results are pretty interesting.

About 22 percent of teenagers surveyed said they check social networks more than 10 times a day, but only 4 percent of parents said they think their kids are checking in that often. Half of teens said they check in more than once daily, but only 23 percent of parents said their teens were tapping into their online networks every day.

Here’s an interesting stat: 12 percent of teens with Facebook or MySpace pages said their parents don’t know about the account. And here’s a possibly alarming finding: 24 percent of teens said they signed onto someone else’s social network account or profile using their password without them knowing.

That last stat aside, what this all really seems to say is that parents haven’t caught up with the realization that the way kids socialize as they move toward adulthood has changed in a big way and will play into how they communicate professionally, too. That’s already happening for adults of all ages. I go in cycles, but when I’m social-network-aware, I check in on my sites several times a day, too. And, now that my son has an iPod Touch, which connects to the Web via our home WiFi, I honestly could not tell you how often he is checking in on his newly minted Facebook site.

What Common Sense Media does best is provide this kind of information, along with the positives of it all and some advice on how to talk to your kids about what they’re doing online and making sure they are playing nice.  For example:  One quarter of teens said they participate in online study groups via their social networks and half have posted writing or artwork they have created. So don’t be alarmed, but do be inquisitive:  Talk to your kids about what they’re doing online, ask them to show you, and check out these tips on Common Sense Media. And if you want to take it a step further, set up your own account, see what it's all about, and tinker with the privacy settings so you can talk to your kids about how to use them effectively. You may want to “friend” your kids online, but talk to them about that first. It works for some families, but not everyone.

If you’ve got kids at home, do you think you have a true picture of the time they are spending on social networks and how important is has become in the way they keep in touch with friends?