Survey: 'The Kids are Alright' with Internet safety

October 18, 2010 1:25:06 PM PDT
Facebook is a big player in a new survey about privacy practices online. The survey from a privacy company looks at how teens, parents and social networking sites think about and handle privacy and safety online.

The survey of 2,000 teenagers and parents is called "The Kids are Alright." (PDF) Because when it comes to taking steps to maintain their privacy on social networking sites, 80 percent of teens surveyed are.

"Kids do care about privacy. They do care about the control of their information and 40 percent in the last six months, that we did the survey, have made changes to their privacy controls," said TRUSTe President Fran Maier.

And contrary to popular belief, most parents are actively involved in their kids' online experience.

"We found that parents were monitoring their kids; 85 percent of parents were monitoring their kids on social networks at least weekly," said Maier.

The survey was commissioned by San Francisco based online privacy company TRUSTe to look at teenager's social networking behavior and what parents do to make it as safe as possible.

The results come in the wake of warnings from psychologists that parents should watch what their kids post on Facebook and other social networking sites for signs of depression or suicidal thoughts.

In Marin County, two teenagers committed suicide this month and authorities are investigating whether their online posts carried signs of danger before they took their lives.

Then there's the case of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi who took his own life after his roommate posted pictures of Clementi having sex with another man online. Clementi left a goodbye note on Facebook.

Facebook security chief Joe Sullivan has seen the survey results and says parents should take away this message:

"Parenting doesn't stop when you teen goes on the Internet. Parenting should go on and be active in the same way it always has been," said Sullivan.

Sullivan says Facebook is continually adjusting its product to give teens the safest online experience possible. For example, one recent update prevents teens from broadcasting their current location from anyone but their closest friends.

It seems to be a good move since TRUSTe's survey shows that kids may still be a little too trusting.

"About 43 percent have at some point accepted friend requests from people they don't know. And that can be dangerous to the extent they're sharing personal information -- location, where they live -- with strangers," said Maier.

Sullivan says there are ways for parents to deal with that.

"One thing I've told a lot of parents when they ask me 'how do I engage my teen on Facebook?' I suggest you ask your teen for advice on how to set up your Facebook account and how to best use it," said Sullivan.

Ironically, the survey is being released on the same day that allegations surfaced that some of the apps on Facebook were delivering the user's personal information to advertisers.

That shows just how complex it can be to safeguard your privacy on the Internet.


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