April 24, 2012 at 6:21 PM ET
To spy or not to spy on your teen on Facebook, that's the question for parents, and most seem to be okay with it. According to a new survey, 60 percent of U.S. parents of teenagers seem okay looking in their kids' social accounts without their knowledge. And moms are most likely to be the ones doing the spying.
The information comes from security software company AVG Technologies, which surveyed 4,400 parents with children ages 14 to 17 in 11 countries. American parents aren't alone in their snooping, but they seem to be more aggressive about Facebook spying. Globally, only 44 percent of all parents said they spy on their teens' Facebook accounts.
With recent cases like that of a 14-year-old boy posting a sexually explicit video of himself with a 14-year-old girl on Facebook, or a 20-year-old man putting nude pictures of his ex-girlfriend on Facebook, a parent's angst about the world's largest social network is more than understandable.
And it's not only sexual predators or malicious hijinks to worry about: It's how kids treat each other on Facebook that is often an issue. Last year, a 12-year-old in Washington state was put on probation after being charged with cyberstalking a former "friend" on Facebook. (And 12-year-olds aren't even supposed to be on Facebook; the legal age is 13.)
According to AVG's survey, 75 percent of American parents "stay connected" to their children on social networks, "significantly more" than parents in other countries. "Across the globe, it’s less common for parents to be 'friends' with their teens on Facebook to be able to monitor the activity teens permit them to see through their privacy settings. In fact, this number is as low as 10 percent in Japan and 33 percent in France."
(Some parents have good luck with friending their children on Facebook, others not so much. A survey last year by Kaplan Test Prep found that 35 percent of 2,300 teens surveyed said they ignore their parents' friending requests.)
While a majority of parents give their children credit for good behavior on social networks, and have "minimal concerns about illegal, inappropriate and career-damaging behaviors" online, AVG says: 40 percent of American parents are worried that what their children post on Facebook and other social networks "will affect their job prospects at some point."
"Is it spying or is it good parenting when parents closely monitor teens’ online activity?” Tony Anscombe, senior evangelist for AVG Technologies said in a press release.
“Parenting teens that have grown up alongside the Internet and with mobile phones in hand requires an entirely new set of rules and tactics. Our research reveals that while parents trust their teens to do the right thing, such as avoiding pornography on the Internet and 'sexting,' they are still concerned about their children’s safety and how teens’ online behavior may affect their future careers.”
Spying on your children's Facebook account may seem tame, however, compared to the actions of some parental units in recent months, who have used the power of social media to publicly humiliate their children. There's the now-famous North Carolina dad who shot up his daughter's laptop because of what she posted about him on Facebook. And the Chicago man who used duct tape to bind his 22-month-old daughter's hands, legs and mouth and then posted a picture of what he'd done on Facebook (and he faces criminal charges for it).
And, in Ohio recently, the mother of a 13-year-old girl who was talking badly about her mom on Facebook, took to the social network to exact revenge. The mom punished her daughter by posting a photo of her on Facebook with a red "X" across her mouth. (See video below.)