Parents Must Monitor Facebook Use

Media Release 10 Nov 2013
Family First NZ says that the moral of the story from events over the past week is that parents mustmonitor their children when they are on Facebook and on social network sites in general.

“Those with dangerous motives have found Facebook a virtual playground. Because of the availability, affordability, and especially the anonymity of social networking, this has placed young people at risk. Facebook simply cannot be relied upon to put the protective measures in place, so it’s essential that parents do,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“Sometimes parents need to be the meanies in order to protect their children. Parents would check out any adult before they allow them to speak freely to their child. They would not allow their children to wander the streets without restriction to talk to people. Yet Facebook and other social networking sites can allow unidentified people access to children and often confidential information related to that child.”

“Parents should also be aware of studies highlighting the harm of excess exposure to Facebook and other social networking activity. A 2010 meta-analysis of 72 studies between 1979–2009 by the University of Michigan found that because there was no eye contact, users failed to develop important social skills, there was a decrease in empathy, and it allowed users to develop a fictitious life. There was a link with obesity, sleep disorders, less brain activity, attention problems, and learning difficulties. The report said that “College kids today are about 40 percent lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago”.

A Microsoft study in 2010 in Australia found that 2/3rds of parents took no precautions, and only 58% had the computer in a public area. A NZ Herald poll of 500 in 2010 found that 30% of parents didn’t, and 14% couldn’t (because of passwords), check their child’s social networking sites.

A Victoria University study found that 38% of youth had online friends they’d never met. And Stanford University found that time spent using the Internet is negatively associated with time spent with family, with time spent with friends.”

Family First is recommending the following safety precautions at a minimum:
1)  parents will know the password and have access to their pages.
2)  settings customised to make profile safer (privacy, visibility, etc).
3)  parents must be a “friend”
4)  No use of the Facebook “chat” application to talk to strangers.
5)  Can only use Facebook in the common areas (not in bedrooms), and with prior permission
6) Do not share personal information (address, phone number, pictures, etc.) with anyone on Facebook that is not a close friend.

“Parents should be upfront with their children about their monitoring. Contrary to those who claim that children have ‘rights’, parents also have a right – to protect their children,” says Mr McCoskrie.

ENDS