Parenting issues with the Internet

Recently, we had the privilege to be invited as a Panelist for Intel’s Community Project on the Cyber Landscape of Singapore. Every year, the Teen and the screen research is carried out by Intel Security to provide an insight into the online behavior and opinions of young Singaporeans, around topics including social media usage, safety and cyberbullying.  Together with David Freer (Vice President, Consumer- Asia Pacific, Intel Security), Melanie Duca (Marketing Director, Consumer – Asia Pacific, Intel Security) and our friend, Chong Ee Jay (Manager, Touch Cyber Wellness), we were put on a panel to discuss interesting insights from the survey and the possible Parenting Issues with the Internet.

intel security teens survey

Technology surveys are gaining prominence today, as they give us a snapshot of the changing landscape of society. More importantly, the survey includes Singapore Teens, so we are taking a look at the sociological development of Singapore Youths, as they interact with technology.

Looking around one does realize that being online is a major part of any youth’s life. Whether it is socializing, making purchases, doing homework or posting pictures or videos, the majority of youth spend a large percentage of their days connected to the Internet. As with any good thing, there are repercussions and  risks associated with socializing, playing and communicating online.

We will not be discussing the whole survey here, as one can see the results from Intel Security. Instead, we will be highlighting some interesting anecdotes, from the survey.

  1. Even though the legal age for joining Facebook is 13, more than half of the children (53 percent) who are active on social media said they created their accounts when they were between 8 and 10 years old. 
  2. 85 percent of parents have had conversations with their children about the risks of social media. The most discussed topics are cyberbullying (71 percent), cyber criminals and identity theft (70 percent), privacy settings (68 percent) and online reputation (45 percent)

Personally, i thought that this point was interesting. The Good News is that parents are looking into issues of cyber wellness and wanting to protect them from the dangers of the Internet. However, efforts to promote this seems to be contradictory to industry recommendations.

Facebook recommends that our kids can only have an Facebook Account when they are 13yo. However, it seems that we are allowing our kids to create their accounts below the legal age, and furthermore, we are giving them the license to be active on it.

As a parent, I tend to be more conservative, and will only want to expose my kids to the emotional hazards of social media when they are emotionally ready. I think that being under the age of 13, one tend to be a bit raw, and may lack the maturity and strength to handle issues of cyber bullying.

Parenting panel

3. 71 percent of parents have attempted to find out what their child is doing online. 83 percent of these parents found out through discussion with their child while 39 percent found out by setting parental controls.

Almost two in three children (61 percent) still hide online activity from their parents through the following methods:

  • 59 percent would change their online behaviour when parents were around
  • 31 percent clear their browser history and delete messages
  • 26 percent minimise their browser when an adult is around
  • 22 percent use a mobile device instead of a laptop or desktop
  • 20 percent use privacy settings

Hmm…Hands up, if you are one of those parents , who will always want to find out what your child is doing online. If my eldest teenage daughter has an active Social Media Account, I would be definitely be trying to “follow” her and find out what she is up to.

However, as these kids become teenagers, they are showing signs of wanting their independence and their privacy. They are beginning to hide their online activities and changing their behaviors, when parents enter the room. Are we giving our teenagers enough space, or are we still treating them like 10 year olds? Personally, I think it’s a case of “letting go”, and it is a parenting approach that we must address.

Growing up, I remember hiding things from my parents, as I knew that they might not approve of certain decisions that I took in my life. As parents, we need to make a “Judgement call”.

Which is more important? A Relationship with our Teen, or holding on so tight, that we have a Teen who is hiding everything from us?

Although we may like to be in full control of our children, and having perfect knowledge of their whereabouts””, Parenting is finding a balance between the 2 divides, and more importantly, maintaining that healthy channel of communication with our teens. We need to decide what works best for our families!

And lastly, the survey also reveals:

4. The number of ‘likes’ or ‘favourites’ on a social media post they have put up matter to 61 percent of children. 32 percent say group photos typically get the most ‘likes’, followed by photos of themselves (22 percent), photos of cool art (19 percent) and selfies (18 percent).

Teenagers are getting caught up, in the race for the number of “Likes” and “Followers”. Are our teenagers validated by the number of “Likes” which they have?

This is definitely an issue that we must begin to explore when they are young. The Teenage years are a phase of life, where young people need to find their self-worth and value. Social Media does not make it easier, but it reveals the problems that teenagers face.

We need to validate our young people and nurture them in a caring environment. We need to build confident and secure individuals, who are assured of their self worth. That even when they make mistakes, there is always a home and a family that loves them.

Being a Parent is definitely never easy…

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