Oh, Canada

According to WebProNews, a study conducted by Microsoft Canada revealed that teens are relatively trusting of online friends. Study highlights include:

  • 70% of surveyed teens believed that the information they put online and sent to friends would be private.
    • Of this 70%, 37% of females and 22% of males had emailed a picture of themselves to somebody else on the internet.
  • 25 per cent of children would feel safe getting together with a person they have only met online and talked to for “a long time” online.

Of course, Canada and the US are not the same, so maybe we can’t draw similar conclusions about American youth. But the questions asked were interesting, and show that adults may not be truly understanding the complexity of the issue of teen social networking. Teens know not to talk to strangers. And for the most part kids don’t pay attention to sudden solicitations and probably can smell trouble in cyberspace (note: this study also revealed that 96 per cent of parents have spoken with their children about dangers to be aware of online). But what we may not be grasping is the fact that teens can run into problems by running with the “wrong crowd” online — just like they do in the physical world.

Normally, I shy away from fear based posts — there are more than enough of those. However, I think this is simply a case of believing that parents should try to get a handle on who their children are spending time with. Most parents want to know if their kid is hanging out with someone who is “trouble.” As researchers, we know that peer behavior is a strong predictor of and influence on a youth’s behavior. So know who your kid is hanging with online the same way you would want to know who is hosting the party and who is going to be there. Because although your child’s new online friend is probably not one of those predators from Dateline, he or she could be a bully, heartbreaker or manipulator. Are those the type of friends you want your child meeting or sending pictures to?

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