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Posted on Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 9:36 a.m.

Teens online: Worried about what they'll see? Or, do?

By Wayne Baker

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Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. This week Dr. Baker is discussing online safety.

Are you worried about your teenager’s online presence? Teens today are members of the digital generation. The Internet, social media, smart phones and computers are as natural to them as the dial telephone was to their parents.

Parents — typically members of the analog generation — are often a step behind their kids when it comes to online knowledge and experience. And many worry about their kids online.

What's your biggest concern?

PRIVACY? More than eight of 10 parents of teens are concerned about how much information advertisers can glean from their kids’ online activities, according to a new survey by the Pew Center. Almost half (46 percent) are very concerned. Earlier on, we discussed a widely publicized incident involving the illegal collection of data by the fan sites of some teen pop stars.

STRANGERS? Interacting with strangers is another big worry. More than seven of 10 parents are worried about their teens interacting with strangers online. More than half are very concerned.

REPUTATION? The majority of parents are also worried reputation management and the future repercussions of their teen’s online activities. Parents worry that what their teens do online now might harm their future employment prospects or academic opportunities. We know, for example, that many employers today are mining social media sites to get information about job applicants.

What's your personal experience with teens and their online activities?

Do you have any horror stories?

Or, is all this worry just an example of overbearing parents?

Wayne Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at or on Facebook.


Mark Miller

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 5:40 a.m.

I personally use a free software called Qustodio at home. Light weight and easy to use, it is a complete solution with automatic blocking and real time reporting of time and sites visited. I can also watch who my son is talking to on Facebook as it allows me to view the profile pictures of accounts that he engages with. Such monitoring is for their own good. Qustodio is a nice app. Just Google for it.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

First and foremost parents should be concerned with reputation. I am a person from the "analog" generation that progressed to the "digital" generation. I have also been in previous positions in which hiring decisions were made. I don't care what the law says, employers will break it ( undetected or blatently ) to get information on a new hire. If something negative is found before hire you are guaranteed to be passed up for the position to begin with. If something negative is found after one is hired (usually by another employee who is snooping, you know the one in every office or workplace that is in to everyone elses business but their own and the bosses personal snitch) the employer will either find a reason, or invent one to terminate your employment. When you sign you application whether it be "analog" (with a pen) or "digital" (online) there is always fine print stating employment can be terminated with or without cause, by either the employer or the employee. Then it's "sha na na na" as my mother used to say to me which means go get a job. I stopped using FB two years ago when all of the privacy concerns were the talk of the media. I communicate with a screen name (I call it my code name) only and have a very small presence on the Public Internet. Try googling yourself one day. You will be quite suprised when pages upon pages come up with everything from your comments on products you have bought to any negative information you have posted or someone else has posted intentionally or unintentionally. Once these thing are there, it is close to if not impossible to make them disappear. Any employer with internet access is going to check the internet, especially if they are hiring you for a career position. I would feel safe saying every employer that would be hiring these days for a career position has access to the internet. If I were a teenager and knew what I know now, I would be working on a positive online


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 4:20 p.m.

(continued) reputation first and foremost. I have been at the hiring end and the last thing anyone wants is something negative to pop up when looking for a job. Your online reputation could determine whether you are shoveling horse droppings or will progress to a goal you have set for yourself. A degree is of no use if you have something negative online that you can not explain to a potential employer. It is actually easier to find negative information with a name search then it is to find a criminal record these days. Why? Because it's free to do !