Only 26 per cent of parents see a benefit in allowing their children to use sites like Facebook, with most concerned about social media use over any other online activity.
According to a survey by US-based digital safety group Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), social media is the only online activity and technology for which more parents believed the harms outweighed the benefits, or were equally balanced.
43 per cent of parents surveyed thought the negative aspects of their child having a social media account outweighed the benefits, while 31 per cent thought the risks and benefits were about equal.
Of those parents who said their child did not have a social media account, the proportion who felt the risks outweighed the benefits hit 63 per cent. For those whose children were on sites such as Facebook, the comparable figure was just 26 per cent.
Among the 53 per cent of parents who said their child had a social networking account, more than three quarters (78 per cent) have logged on to their child’s account to check their posts.
Jen Hanley, legal and policy director of FOSI, said parents were concerned that their children might “overshare” online by posting personal information that could then not be withdrawn. It also reflected their difficulty in keeping up with the latest app, she added: “Many parents say that now they are on Facebook, their kids are not.”
Just over three quarters (76 per cent) were either very concerned or somewhat concerned about the prospect of their child seeing inappropriate or harmful content online, or companies tracking their child’s online activity for marketing purposes.
The prospect of their child communicating with a stranger online was very or somewhat concerning for 69 per cent.
For those whose children have a smartphone or mobile device, 71 per cent of parents said they had checked sent and received text messages, and 45 per cent had set limits on the number of messages that could be sent.
Hanley said that FOSI was encouraging more people to use tools such as parental controls to give them more peace of mind about their children’s online activities.
Hart Research Associates carried out the study for FOSI. Three focus groups were conducted: one with parents who had children age six to nine; another of parents of 10 to 13-year-olds; and a further group for parents of teenagers between 14 and 17.