Adina’s Deck was mentioned in this article from Inside Bay Area
New ‘generation gap’ hurts parent-teen relationships
Moms, dads urged to get up to speed on high-tech communication tools
By Barbara Grady, STAFF WRITER
Article Last Updated: 10/29/2007
Anna Perez recalls that when she was a teenager, if a boy wanted to call, he had to phone her house â€” and chances were a parent would overhear at least half the conversation.
“Now they call on cell phones or IM (instant message) each other or send text messages. There is a lot less control over our kids,” said Perez of Oakland, who notes that her 12-year-old son and his friends have access to an entire world of communication tools that are beyond her earshot.
Mary Murtagh, a Berkeley mom, notes that her son â€” and all young teenagers â€” have so much more time to explore the Web than adults that they develop a facility parents can’t keep up with. Teens today are experts at social networking, tagging sites for each other, posting photos and videos and sending instant messages, Murtagh said.
Luckily for Perez and Murtagh, their seventh-grade sons are into soccer and sharing cartoons and instant messaging the same friends they hang out with at school â€” friends who are well-known to Perez and Murtagh.
But a national study that came out of the White House last month said a “technology generation gap” leaves parents today less aware of their teens’ social contacts and activities than they were even a few years ago.
The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, a public service effort by the National Office of Drug Control Policy, is focusing this year on telling parents to “get with it” technologically if they are to bridge communication
gaps with their teens.
“There is a new kind of generation gap between parents and teens,” said Scott Burns, deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “We are asking parents to bridge the gap by getting up to speed on the technology teens use.”
The agency has launched what it calls the “Parent Chronicles” on the Web to help parents bridge that gap and teach them how to monitor social networks and use texting and other tools. It can be found at http://www.theantidrug.com/parentchronicles. AT&T Inc. is also helping disseminate information about Parent Chronicles by including flyers about it in its bills to customers.
“If, for example, parents believe that because they know how to use the Internet they understand their teens’ experience online or because they talk on a cell phone, they understand how teens use these devices to communicate with each other, they are sadly mistaken,” Burns said.
About 93 percent of teens are online, according to a 2007 report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. And 44 percent of teenagers have cell phones, according to the project’s 2006 report.
Burns said that a survey his agency conducted with random sets of teens and parents found that 75 percent of teens say their parents do not monitor their online activity â€” even as the majority of the parents say they know where their kids are and who they are talking with.
The Pew Internet study came up with numbers that suggest parents are more diligent: It said 53 percent of parents have filtering software on the computer their child uses at home and 45 percent have monitoring software that traces the Web sites their child has visited. Meanwhile, 85 percent of parents say they have rules about Internet use.
But at the same time, the Pew Internet study found that more than half of teens who use the Internet have profiles on a social network â€” a medium generally not understood by parents. And the teens have varying attitudes about protecting their privacy. Two-thirds of surveyed teens said they limit their profile access to people they know and communicate only with people they already know. But on the other hand, half say they use the networks to meet new friends.
While the Internet holds huge benefits to teens, such as providing a rich source for research on school projects, Burns warns that, without parental supervision of online activities, young people also can innocently invite strangers into their lives, become victims of cyber bullying or get easy access to illicit drugs.
“In my generation â€” and I am old â€” when friends came over, my parents would eyeball them,” he said. “They had a chance to see kids I was hanging out with, see if they were the good crowd or trouble.
“Now, a hundred times a night, kids come into the home and parents don’t know them,” he continued, referring to virtual visits by people on social networks. Some kids video conference each other via webcams.
“My daughter has a webcam and the other night there is this kid in my house,” Burns said. “Turns out they were doing history homework together, but it could have been anything.”
The Parent Chronicles is “a call to action for parents to help them better understand their teens,” he said. The site assigns homework to parents to help get them technologically up to speed and includes a message board for parents to share experiences.
Other experts note that parents are not aware of increasing incidences of “cyber bullying” because those parents don’t understand the ubiquity of social networking and mobile text communications.
Stanford University graduate student Debbie Heimowitz, who produced a video widely disseminated by Bay Area schools about cyber bullying called “Adina’s Deck,” says that among middle school girls in particular, cyber bullying is a serious problem. It occurs when teenagers post insulting or embarrassing things about another teenager on widely read social networks, such as MySpace or Facebook, or send insults as text messages over cell phones.
“Kids are hiding behind the Internet and cell phones, saying things that they would not say in person,” Heimowitz said.
“Seventy-five percent of girls (in middle school) are victims of this,” she said, citing the results of a survey she conducted of 31 kids in Menlo Park and Redwood City.
Such bullying is “psychologically damaging,” Heimowitz said, yet some teens are afraid to tell their parents, since they are on social networks without permission.
Heimowitz also has created a Web site, http://www.adinasdeck.com, to help teenagers deal with cyber bullying.
On the Parent Chronicles site, four families are interviewed about their parent-teen relationships. In each of them, the parents view the relationships as close and say they believe they know what is going on in their child’s life. In separate interviews with the corresponding teens, however, the teens say the parents generally do not know.
“I was a little surprised when I watched the video,” admitted Cindy Keegan of Connecticut, who was interviewed on the site along with her 17-year-old daughter Maggy, an honors student.
“I obviously thought I had a pretty good handle on her life,” Keegan said. “I mostly didn’t realize the kids put that much peer pressure on each other to try things.”
Burns’ biggest concern is that teenagers will find Web sites that will mail them illegal drugs.
“Kids can type ‘methamphetamines’ into a Web search and get all sorts of information about how to get them and how great they make you feel,” he said.