Editor’s note: Mario Armstrong is HLN’s digital lifestyle contributor. He breaks down complex technological concepts to help people incorporate the latest gadgets, applications, and digital devices into their lives. Armstrong is also an NPR tech contributor and a public speaker.
“I can't believe what I'm reading!” That is the feeling I got while digesting Consumer Reports’ recent "State of the Net" survey, which essentially puts our digital habits under the microscope.
The reason I was so shocked by the report boils down to these three things:
Almost 13 million users said they had never set or didn’t know about Facebook’s privacy tools! Yikes! This is a serious problem. You can't live by the default settings in Facebook or any other social network or app. Customize your privacy settings immediately. Spend 10 minutes on the site and you'll likely see many things you don't want published or available to the masses.
Five point six million underage kids still have accounts. This is ridiculous and Facebook has to be much more vigilant about this problem. They are about to be a publicly traded company and this will be an area that could come back to haunt shareholders. Kids under 13 have no business being on Facebook. They can use more age appropriate social networks and browsers like Kidzui and others.
The least vigilant parents in the survey were those with children under 13 on Facebook. I was shocked to read that most parents who knew their preteen used Facebook had not discussed online threats with them or "friended" them, and up to a third did nothing to keep up with their kids’ Facebook activities. As a parent myself, I find this unacceptable! The online universe is our kids’ playground, park, back alleys and malls. Would you let your 10-year-old go to the mall in a neighborhood you don’t know much about by themselves? That's exactly what these parents are doing. Do me a favor: After reading this post, go straight to the FBI website to get this online parents guide.
Look, I understand as a parent it is hard to keep up, but as a parent that is your job -- that's what you signed up for! I’m trying to stress how dangerous -- and in some cases life-threatening -- the online world can be, and it’s your job to teach your kids that. We need to all diligently prepare our kids to be "netizens" (Internet citizens). You don't have to hide the Internet from them, but teach them, groom them, and advise them on how to make wise decisions in this constantly connected society.