How the Internet is defeating America’s parents

Either we’re raising the most responsible group of teenagers in history, or American parents have become extraordinarily lazy.

According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, only 61 percent of parents check the websites their teens are visiting. About the same number have ever checked their kids’ social-media profiles.

And it would be pretty hard for them to find out much, considering that just over half the parents have ever “friended” or followed their teens on Facebook, Twitter or other social media. And less than half have checked their teens’ text messages.http://nypost.com/2016/01/11/how-the-internet-is-defeating-americas-parents/

“They’re just so overwhelmed, they’re acting like ostriches,” says psychologist Wendy Mogel. The author of “Blessings of a Skinned Knee,” Mogel says that “parents who would never let their kids have ice cream for breakfast or drive cars without a license have just given up” when it comes to technology.

Can you imagine parents 50 years ago saying that they never visit the places their kids go? Or that they’ve never met their friends’ parents?

Would any self-respecting mom have admitted to never going into her 13-year-old’s room, or not knowing whether her kids had put up nude pictures of themselves in a public place, or letting strange adults send secret letters to her children?

Of course not. Kids arguably used to have more freedom than they do now, but there were still boundaries. Some were physical — kids couldn’t go beyond their neighborhood. Some were cultural — convenience stores weren’t selling inappropriate material to kids and movie theaters weren’t offering the kind of fare they do now.

Today, though, we’ve continued to contract the physical boundaries, keeping our children from walking to the park by themselves. But through their tablets and phones, we’re letting them go anywhere and everywhere.

Given that the news is filled with stories of high school sexting scandals, bullying on Facebook and kids accessing hardcore porn and being contacted by strangers online, it’s hard to imagine what these parents are thinking.

Even if they wanted to start paying attention now, less than half of parents know the password to their teens’ email accounts or cells and only a third know the password to at least one of their teens’ social-media accounts.

You don’t have to have a devious child to think this is a recipe for trouble. Children are curious, and it’s easy for them to get in over their heads.

According to the Pew report, the majority of parents don’t use digital solutions like filters to monitor or restrict their children’s online activities, either. Which isn’t surprising — since most of the parents I’ve spoken to tend to find such “solutions” totally ineffective.

Crista Sumanik, senior director of Communications for Common Sense Media, says that there are really no foolproof filters out there “because tech evolves so quickly.”

It’s hard to design a program that will keep out the things that you may find objectionable. Someone else might have a very different standard.

One of the most common ways that kids encounter objectionable content is YouTube. While the Internet channel has so many things kids want — from instructions about how to make lanyards and build Legos to music videos and cartoons — it also has plenty of things parents don’t.

One mother complained that her daughter was watching Barbie videos and YouTube “suggested” a video about “people doing inappropriate things to Barbies.” Because the people uploading the videos are responsible for describing and categorizing them, this is a regular problem.

Sumanik worries that when parents do use filters, it gives them “a false sense of security.” Like many experts on kids’ use of tech, she believes the answer lies largely in providing kids “with the necessary digital literacy and citizenship skills.”

But this is a long process. And for responsible parents, all of this honest conversation about what they’re doing online has to be accompanied by some serious supervision.

It’s time to get cracking, folks.

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

http://nypost.com/2016/01/11/how-the-internet-is-defeating-americas-parents/

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