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Your Kids and Facebook, MySpace and Twitter: What’s Responsible Online Behavior?

March 12, 2010
34 Comments

Today, moms are faced with a new realm of parenting challenges that moms twenty – or even ten – years ago didn’t have to deal with. In addition to age-old responsibilities like teaching your children manners, monitoring their behavior, and encouraging them to pursue their dreams, there’s a recently added chapter to the unwritten parenting “guide,” and it’s called, “Raising Responsible Kids Online.”

It can be incredibly difficult to distinguish a clear line between what’s responsible and what’s irresponsible when it comes to your child and their online behavior, particularly with social media sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

Is it responsible for a child to use Facebook? Until what age should parents monitor their child’s social media profile? Is it okay to post pictures of your child online?

Liberty Mutual recently surveyed American social media users, including moms, to find the answers to these questions and help spark a conversation about this very popular – and sometimes controversial – topic.

The Social Media and Personal Responsibility Survey was conducted as part of Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project, an online community that poses the question of what it means to “do the right thing” in everyday situations, and in this case, online.

The survey revealed that the vast majority (73 percent) of parents believe it’s acceptable for their child to have a Facebook or MySpace account. However, those same parents claim they will monitor their child’s social media profile until they are 18 years-old. Which essentially means, parents can add, “check daughter’s Facebook profile” to their ongoing list of to-do’s.

Interestingly enough, according to the survey, most parents have their own personal profile on these sites. Not only are parents monitoring their kids’ online behavior, they are using social media as a way to “connect” with their kids. A stunning 69 percent of parents said they are currently “friends” with their children on a social media site – likely as a way to interact with and/or monitor their children.

Additionally, Facebook is crammed with pictures of children of all ages, most of which were likely posted by parents. So, it may come as a shock that 42 percent of social media users believe it’s irresponsible to post pictures of children online.

Even more surprisingly – despite the large number of these currently floating around the internet, a shocking nine out of 10 parents said they have NEVER used social media on behalf of their child; this includes creating a baby profile page or “Tweeting” on behalf of a child. This discrepancy raises the question – are parents embarrassed to admit they’ve done this? Share your opinion here.

If your children are older and perhaps even entering the job market post-college, it may be helpful for them to know that more than half (52%) of the survey respondents found it completely acceptable to check a job candidate’s social media profile before hiring them.

Social Media in the Classroom and Teachers on Facebook

As the great Bob Dylan once sang, “The times they are a changing.” Actually, they’ve already changed. Children are completing curriculum on computers, learning how to research using Google and becoming best friends with kids they’ve only met virtually. That said, it’s not surprising that social media has permeated the American classroom.
The verdict is still out, however, on whether or not social media should permeate the American classroom, at least as it relates to teachers. Almost half (46 percent) of survey respondents said it’s irresponsible for a teacher to have a social media profile, while 43 percent claimed it’s completely acceptable.

How would you feel if your child came home and told you that their teacher “friended” them on Facebook? If your response is negative, you aren’t alone. The majority of respondents (81 percent) stated they believe it’s irresponsible for teachers to “friend” current students (ages 5-18) on Facebook.

Men vs. Women

In addition to questions about parenting and education, Liberty Mutual polled social media users’ opinions on relationships. The classic debate of “men vs. women” quickly became a theme stitched throughout the survey results.

Come to find out, men are not only more accepting of social media but they also use it more often than women. It appears that men find things like “friending” a boss or co-worker on Facebook more responsible than women (40 percent vs. 29 percent). Similarly, men (57 percent) are more likely than women (50 percent) to have more than one social media profile and use the accounts at least a few times a week. The only social media site that women seem to use more often than men is Facebook and even that is a close one (83 percent vs. 80 percent). Food for thought: Why is it that men turn to social media (more than women) for social interaction?

Your Part

As a woman, a mom, a co-worker, a wife – we want to hear your opinion. To join the conversation and find more survey results, please visit www.ResponsibilityProject.com, follow us on Twitter or visit our Facebook page.

Editor’s note This post was sponsored by Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project®.

34 Comments

After coming across disgusting fan pages encouraging hateful behavior (e.g., hitting women) and sex/porn images, I am no longer thinking of having my child have her own Facebook account. She can have her own Facebook account when Facebook can ensure those sites don't exist any longer or when she turns 18, whichever comes sooner (or provided Facebooks still exists then, 13 yrs from now).

My 3 children all have facebook accounts ( 7, 8 and 12) the younger two only play pet games, they can have their own friends on there, but must ask parents permission before adding or accepting a friend request, or adding a new game. I also know their passwords, and they know not to give out any information.

Their accounts are set to private so can not be seen by anyone bar friends ( which is the policy of facebook and myspace if the person is under 18)

From what my husband says; men uses these media outlets because it requires them to talk less, be witty, tell a good joke and make it sound like it was their original, etc.

REPORT those pages. I have a friend who has, with the help of FB friends, gotten several pages deleted that promote hitting women.

My son is too young to have an account and I'm not quite sure how we'll handle that issue when he's older. My concern is with posting photos online. It makes me a little nervous but I have family all over the world and my settings are set to private. I wish I was a little more comfortable with it though.

These internet sites state that no one under the age of 16 should have their own account. They are NOT for children! If parents are allowing children under that age to have these sites, YOU are placing your child at risk, not the site.
It's time parents took responsiblity for the actions of their children and stop playing the blame game!

When my daughter was 13, I allowed her to have a MySpace page on the condition that she list me as one of her friends, and she knew that I would be checking her page periodically, and if I saw anything inappropriate on her page, she would have to remove it. I wasn't worried about her seeing something icky, I just wanted to be sure that no one was trying to talk her into anything icky. There were never any problems...

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Im commenting onn is it ok to put your childrens pictures online? I have my own fb and myspace and I have my children on their,but granted both are set to private and only my friends that are on there can see them! I would never have a open facebook or myspace! It is to dangerous even for us mother's out there. And as far as your own children having them. I would say that would be up to you and your child and if u could trust them or not. But I would def leave it private. Good Luck

I have children ranging in age from 6 to 12, and I am uncertain about whether to let the older one use social networks like facebook. One of the challenges at this age that we are currently facing at school is that the children seem terribly cruel to those who are different, and what I have heard is that this extends to social networks in an even more extreme way. I think it is because there is no face to face exchange and typing mean things is easier than actually saying it in front of people...

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I have children ranging in age from 6 to 12, and I am uncertain about whether to let the older one use social networks like facebook. One of the challenges at this age that we are currently facing at school is that the children seem terribly cruel to those who are different, and what I have heard is that this extends to social networks in an even more extreme way. I think it is because there is no face to face exchange and typing mean things is easier than actually saying it in front of people...

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I have to agree with ivyshihleung. I have recently taken away my 12 yr olds computer use because of a link he came across on Facebook to an extremely inappropriate portrayal of women that has opened up a door I would have preferred to stay shut! I am rethinking his computer use completely and will be shutting down his Facebook page until he is 18 or when and if those disgusting sites are not accessible on Facebook.

I have a facebook account that I post pictures of my 7 month old son on. I have family that lives across the country and this helps to stay in touch with them and allow them to stay apart of his life. I also have all my setting set to private so only those that I want to see the pictures can. I feel that there are limits to have a social media page. You HAVE to be responsible about what you put on there...

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Children should have their picture posted on their profile if a parent is going to allow their young child to have an account with some social site. It's much too dangerous and I do not believe the hometown or any distinguishing remarks should be made to further protect the identity of the child. I personally believe that children under 16 should not have a social account. And, if a child 16 or older is going to have an account, they should be strictly monitored by the parents...

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My 13 y/o daughter has a Facebook and a Myspace profile. I do also. I monitor her on both sites, I have the passwords. I have her as a friend. I also have a couple of her friends on my page. All I ask my child is if she can't say something to someones face, then she shouldn't be saying it online. If I come in from another room and she is closing the page she is on, that is a red flag for me. and she knows it. If I can't see what she is doing then she doesnt need to be on that page...

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I have a 12 yr old who has been wanting a facebook account for the longest. Last year she mentioned some of her friends had friends create accounts for them without their parents knowing...

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