Social media monitoring services stir debate

Greenhow said using such services could be “potentially harmful to effective parenting practices such as establishing trust, discussing responsible, ethical online and offline practices and educating one’s children on potentially risky behaviors.”

She suggested parents become familiar with social networking websites and open their own accounts to gain a sense of how the sites work and what privacy settings are available.

Parents may be pleasantly surprised by their children’s behavior while on social networking websites.

“In my research with high school students, I’ve found that high school social networkers rarely friend people they don’t already know or who do not come recommended through their existing network,” Greenhow said. “I’ve also found that young people’s social networking practices can have positive effects on their relationships…Over time we might find that such positive effects on their relationships may benefit students’ sense of social belonging and ultimately, their success in school.”

GoGoStat’s Stevenson said the service is designed for kids ages 12-16, “where parents still have some ability to influence behavior, provide some guidance, and where, hopefully, some trust still exists between kids and their parents.”

And it may be more alarming when parents do not want to be involved in their children’s social networking use, he added.

“Our biggest concern is parents who simply don’t care,” he said, recounting a recent time when he explained GoGoStat Parental Guidance to a former co-worker. “After describing Parental Guidance to her, she said, ‘Oh, when it comes to what my kids are doing on Facebook, I don’t want to know,’ and just shook her head.  That, to me, is the scariest approach of all.”

Greenhow said that too much monitoring could have the opposite impact on a parent’s relationship with his or her children.

“My concern is that social network monitoring services could short-change the parent-child (and the teacher-student) relationships, shut down these educational conversations, and move teenagers from sharing to silence, which is something that no parent, educator, citizens – none of us wants.”

Laura Ascione

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