Do parents teach their kids to share passwords?

Amanda worries about teenagers who share their online passwords with friends or significant others

By Amanda Factor
Do parents teach their kids to share passwords?

Credit: kiki follettosa

I'm definitely getting old, because I've officially reached the age when reading about things today's young people do causes me to throw up my hands and say "KIDS TODAY!" And I really mean it.

I had this reaction to a New York Times article from last week about teenagers sharing online passwords with friends and significant others as a sign of trust. Apparently boyfriends and girlfriends will swap email and Facebook passwords and even have joint accounts.

"WHAT ARE YOU KIDS DOING?" I yelled at my computer screen. "When the two of you eventually break up, the results could be disastrous." Not sharing my passwords with anyone is one of the most fundamental safety rules that has always stuck with me. Same goes for banking PINs. It's just basic common sense.

My parents were at least partly responsible for drilling this concept into my head, as soon as we acquired dial-up Internet in our home and I got my own email address. My dad, whose nickname might as well have been Mr. Safety, constantly reminded me to never, ever, ever give out my password to anyone. Not friends, not boyfriends, not anyone.

And here are these young kids giving out their passwords all willy-nilly! It boggles the mind.

The Times article mentions parents of teens who discourage password-sharing, just like mine did, but what if some parents are unintentionally encouraging it? Yesterday I read this reaction piece by social media researcher Danah Boyd that suggests parents normalize password-sharing for their kids. Parents will often demand that their kids fork over their passwords to them, so that they can easily monitor their online activity. "Household norms shape peer norms," Boyd writes.

This article also made me think of married couples who share email addresses, and I wondered if this practice could normalize password-sharing or email/Facebook account-sharing for their teens. If Mom and Dad share an email address and that's okay, why isn't it okay for their teen son to share a Facebook account with his girlfriend?

What would you do if you found out your teen was sharing his/her online passwords?

Photo by kiki follettosa via Flickr.

This article was originally published on Jan 25, 2012

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