Understand What Your Kids Are Doing Online

In the last week or so, two items were prominently in the news in our neck of the woods – the Penn State fraternity scandal and the uproar around monitoring of student social media during and after the standardized PARCC test in New Jersey.

In the Penn State case, a fraternity has been suspended and is under investigation after it was reported that they had a private Facebook page that hosted details of illegal activities and nonconsensual photos of women, likely PSU students, in various states of undress.

In the PARCC testing brouhaha, parents are outraged that Pearson, the company administering the PARCC test, has been monitoring social media (including student accounts) for mentions of PARCC test question leaks.

In our view the incidents have something in common. Specifically we’re talking about the role that parents play, or don’t, in teens’ social media habits.

Is it okay to monitor student social media accounts in order to protect the integrity of the PARCC?

Surely, a parent should caution minors that posting nonconsensual pictures of women or standardized test questions online is a very bad idea. The problem in all likelihood is that the parents in both of these cases didn’t know it was happening.

In the case of the PARCC test monitoring, now that parents have found out that social media posts are being monitored, they are protesting that the monitoring is a violation of privacy. In a poll conducted by the Asbury Park Press, pictured at right, 74% of respondents hold this view.

When Pearson discovered the test material that was posted online, they weren’t spying. Every major brand monitors public social media posts for mentions of their product, which in the case of PARCC is a proprietary test. If your child does not want to be found out, accounts should be set to private. That, however, is not the point we’re trying to make here.

If you as a parent are (a) ignoring what your kids are doing online and assuming (hoping?) that all is good, then (b) claiming it is an invasion of privacy when your child is found out acting appropriately, you’re not doing your kids any favors.

In order for you to be the best parent you can be, you need to know what to focus on. Ignoring the online aspect of your family’s activity is a risk you don’t want to take.



Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.