Parents Feel Social Media Risks Outweigh Benefits

More parents believe that the risks of social media outweigh its benefits for their children than believe the opposite, according to new survey of UK and U.S. parents with children ages 6 - 17 who use the Internet, conducted for the UK’s Family Online Safety Institute.

Overall 43% of parents surveyed said they though the negative impacts of social media outweighed the positive impacts, compared to 26% who believe the positive impacts were greater. Meanwhile 31% said they thought the risks and benefits were equal — not exactly a ringing endorsement. Put the numbers together and three-quarters of parents either view social media as bad for their children or neutral at best. 

In terms of actual usage, 53% of parents said their child had a social network account (I would add and emphasize “that they are aware of”), and within this group 78% have logged in to this account to check up on what their child is posting. Furthermore 76% said they were concerned about their child seeing inappropriate content online, and 69% worried about them meeting a stranger. 

Among parents who believe the risks outweighed the benefits, three quarters said they were worried about their children posting damaging content online that would stay on the Internet forever. Unsurprisingly, parents also voiced concern that they had a hard time keeping up with changing social media behaviors, as kids migrate from Facebook to other social platforms like Instagram.

And, of course, children get wilier with age, the report noted: “While many parents monitor their children’s online activity and are confident in their ability to do so, the degree to which parents actively oversee their children’s online activities and their confidence in their ability to do so decreases the older their child is.”

In April of this year, I wrote about another online survey which found that over three-quarters of parents said they snoop on their kids’ online activity — although security was just one of several reasons they cited. Asked about their motives for monitoring their teens’ social media activity, 85% of parents surveyed said they wanted to learn more about their children’s lives, and 83% said they worried that their children might be posting inappropriate content online. Just 12% of parents said they feel guilty about conducting social media surveillance.

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