Talk about risks to keep children safe

Q: My 14-year-old daughter has a laptop computer that she needs for school, but I’m concerned that she’s spending too much time with social media like Facebook and Twitter. 


Should I try to control the amount of time she spends online or use parental controls? I do not want her to be at risk of cyber-bullying or someone posting inappropriate photos online. 


A: Here are some interesting statistics about teenagers and their computer habits. As many as 93 percent of North American teenagers age 12 to 17 go online and 73 percent use a social networking site. 


The average teenager has 201 Facebook friends. Obviously, these are not all “real” friends, but these kids think it is cool to collect as many Facebook or Twitter friends as possible. 


Some of them could be pedophiles posing as young people. Personally, I have a rule that anyone who I have never met or wouldn’t invite into my house, should not be a Facebook friend. Here are some figures that will really scare you: 


  • 55 percent of teens have given out personal info to someone they don’t know, including photos and physical descriptions.

  • 29 percent of teens have posted mean information, embarrassing photos or spread rumours about someone.

  • 29 percent have been stalked or contacted by a stranger or someone they don’t know.

  • 24 percent have had private or embarrassing information made public without their permission.

  • 22 percent have been cyber-pranked.


Implementing parental controls on your computer may help at bit, but 67 percent of teens say that they know how to get around this and hide what they do online from nosy parents. Risk taking behaviour is one of the features of this age group. They can feel invincible and immortal, so it’s hard to protect your child completely. 


In the same way that you would explain to a young child that they should not get into a car with a stranger, you need to sit down and discuss the risks of social media with your teenager. 


In this day and age, it’s impossible to control their behaviour by forbidding the use of the computer or cellphone.


Clare Rowson is a retired medical doctor in Belleville, Ont. Contact: [email protected]