A UK insurance firm has released the results of a study that looks at how students use the internet to keep in touch with parents:

According to the study, parents rely heavily on social media platforms like Facebook to keep tabs on their children once they’ve left home, with 75% admitting to regularly checking their profiles to see what they’ve been up to. However interestingly, only 36% of the 18-25 year olds surveyed are actually friends with their parents on Facebook and almost three quarters (72%) deliberately choose not to be as they do not want their parents seeing personal pictures and messages.

Results like this make me grateful that my kids are still young — young enough that I’ve got time to lay the groundwork for how to use social media as they get older. After all, when the parents of today’s 18-25 year olds had pre-school and elementary age kids (i.e., the age mine are now) they couldn’t have anticipated a world in which social media would be the best way to keep tabs on their grown children. Ten or fifteen years from now, I’ll inevitably face a comparable challenge, with my kids living online in ways I can’t presently imagine.

Given that rate of tech change, how do we prepare our kids for an Internet we can’t anticipate? It demands a combination of sticking to basics (reinforcing principles like speaking kindly of other people, thinking carefully about self-disclosure, and being willing to admit when you’re wrong) and making educated guesses about where technology is likely to go and how that will affect your kids’ social, academic and professional lives.¬†We know that the past fifteen years of life online have made us steadily more transparent, findable and connected: imagining the skills your kids would need on social networks that they use 3x as much as you do today is probably a good rule of thumb. And even for me, a terrifying prospect.