I read with interest a blog from http://www.mamarazziknowsbest.com/ that apparently teenagers have ditched wearing the traditional high school ring as a sign of love and commitment in exchange for getting the keys to their private, online lives:

Passwords.

The New York Times reported that teens are now swapping passwords to Facebook and other social networking sites as a sign of affection and trust.

”In a 2011 telephone survey, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 30 percent of teenagers who were regularly online had shared a password with a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend. The survey, of 770 teenagers aged 12 to 17, found that girls were almost twice as likely as boys to share. And in more than two dozen interviews, parents, students and counselors said that the practice had become widespread.”

This practice starts in middle school and goes through college. Kids willingly give up their personal information for a variety of reasons beyond the obvious sleuthing around e-mails and status updates.

Some students give up the password goods to their trusted friends so they can then change the password and lock their BFF out of their own account so they won’t be distracted during finals.

Of course, the more common practice is to swap passwords providing access to the private (secret), virtual worlds most kids live in today to prove trustworthiness.

As parents, the obvious jumps out at us. Immature, spiteful, or scorned exes can wreak havoc with a child’s online and real world reputation.

Rosalind Wiseman equates the pressure to reveal these private access codes to the same peer pressure to have sex at an early age.

A parent and child psychologist, Patti Cole, claims that as a society we haven’t done a good job of controlling sex among teenagers, so how can we expect to control this? She also thinks kids are going against adults’ warnings of becoming cyber vulnerable with a typical rebellious-teen reaction.

“What worries me is we haven’t done a very good job at stopping kids from having sex,” she said. “So I’m not real confident about how much we can change this behavior.”

Besides talking to our teenagers until we are blue in the face about the potential harm and devastating consequences of allowing an open door policy to online social sites, is there a way to control this digital age behavior? If so how would you do it?