Trust, but verify. The phrase Ronald Reagan made famous when referring to relations with the former Soviet Union applies equally well to parents of teenagers.
Every parent wants to trust their teenager. But in the Digital Age, even good kids can fall prey to the temptations and dangers that lurk online. Today’s teens face a world of threats most of us never could have imagined when we were their age.
“I’m very concerned,” said Flower Mound parent Jim Kennedy, who does his best to monitor his 14-year-old daughter’s Facebook account.
“I review security settings on a regular basis to make sure nothing has changed and is locked down as tight as possible. I also take time to follow what she posts and the replies.
“Unfortunately, a lot of kids use little to no security so I have to make sure her exposure is limited by her own settings and that nothing is exposed that would be a concern.”
That’s exactly why Betsy Dawson of Frisco created SociallyKnow in mid-2011. She realized that today’s teens are often oblivious to the dangers they face online from friends both real and deceptive. As she says, “not all Facebook friends are friendly.”
SociallyKnow helps good parents parent better. The site (www.SociallyKnow.com) monitors social interactions in real time, sifting through the clutter to flag key words, phrases and photos that merit a parent’s attention.
Parents receive an email or text any time their child sends or receives messages that are sexually explicit, bullying, physically or verbally abusive, vulgar or suicidal in nature. Alerts are likewise sent any time their child receives a new friend request, posts or is tagged in a new photo, and where they “check in” on Facebook.
Armed with this information, parents can then decide how, or even if, to address the issue with their child.
“Our subscribers tell us they love the fact that SociallyKnow sifts through all the chatter on their teen’s Facebook pages to pinpoint the areas of greatest concern,” said Dawson, co-owner of SociallyKnow. “Very few parents are interested in ‘spying’ on their kids. They just want to know when there’s a potential for harm, before it’s too late.”
Before dismissing the concern as “some other parent’s problem,” consider these alarming facts:
• 71% of teen girls and 67% of teen boys have shared a sexual message or picture with a boyfriend/girlfriend.
• 32% of teenagers say they have been the target of cyberbullying.
• 34% of 8- to 18-year-olds have at least one Facebook friend they’ve never met.
• 46% of 8- to 18 year olds have provided personal information to someone online.
• 71% say they have received messages from someone they don’t know.
• 40% say they will usually reply and chat with that stranger.
• 30% have considered meeting someone they’ve only talked to online…and 14% have actually met face-to-face!
• 4 out of 5 teenagers sleep with their cell phones under their pillow to catch late night texts and Facebook posts.
• Nearly half of teens say their parents or guardians know “very little” or “nothing” about their online activity.
Recent news coverage about an online predator who had contacted dozens of Rockwall, TX students via Facebook underscores how easily teens can be duped. As reported by NBC-5, according to police, a middle school student called the imposter, who was using the name “Jenny Klasp,” and hung up after hearing a man’s voice.
The Rockwall Independent School District and Rockwall Christian Academy sent a letter to parents urging them to get more involved in their children’s online activities.
“That’s good advice for every parent of a teen, whether you live in Rockwall, or Flower Mound or New York City,” said Dawson. “Fortunately, it appears the authorities were notified before any serious harm was done by this predator.”
“Parents using SociallyKnow could have known the minute their child was contacted by ‘Jenny Klasp,’ and they would have immediately seen the explicit messages sent by the predator hiding behind the name,” explained Dawson. “That’s why we say that SociallyKnow isn’t about ‘spying’ on your kids. It’s about being as vigilant about their safety online as you are when they take the car keys or want to go to a party at a stranger’s house.”
As SociallyKnow has grown in popularity, the site has evolved to become even more effective. Earlier this month, SociallyKnow unveiled an upgraded user interface designed to streamline site navigation and improve subscriber service.
“We listened to our customers and made the enhancements they requested,” said Dawson. “They told us they were very pleased with the functionality of the system, in particular the way it alerts them to areas of concern on Facebook; but they asked us to improve the way the site is laid out and to make it more user-friendly.”
SociallyKnow is platform-independent, can be accessed from any device and is not dependent on the device used to access social media (e.g., cell phone, laptop, PC). It does not capture keystrokes, but rather monitors messages and photos posted to and from a child’s Facebook page.
Kennedy adds, “Doing it on your own can be tedious and time consuming, where a service like SociallyKnow appears to be much more efficient, consolidating the things that most need to be monitored making it much easier for parents.”
For more information, or a free 30-day trial, visit www.SociallyKnow.com.