Teens and Social Media

It’s surprising how tech-savvy our youth is today. This ‘savviness’ can be attributed to our teens ‘now-inherent’ understanding of computers and technical devices. It seems that they are born with the instinctive ability to use a digital device. Much of this seemly “natural” ability has to do with our dedicated school teachers. These educators start teaching our kids early-on about the technologies they will need to understand to succeed in this technical world!

The majority of today’s kids and teens spend a good deal of time online using social media outlets and connecting with their peers. In fact, roughly 80% of teens report being online daily. Most of this time results in a positive experience for them - connecting with friends, family members, and maybe even the occasional homework project. But, as with anything, there are the inherent dangers. Privacy, bullying, and online predators are a real threat to our teens.

What apps and websites are teens using? A 2017 study shows that the top 5 are, in order; Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Sending inappropriate pictures, creating identities that might be exaggerated, or not true, and humiliating or shaming others - these are a few posts that should be red flags.

What can you do?

First off, educate yourself on some of the technologies your youngster uses. As we all know, social media changes quickly so it is often hard to keep up. Know what apps your kids are using on their devices. Download the same apps so you have some familiarity with how they work.

Second, check the privacy settings for each program on your kids’ devices. Checking privacy settings will help to ensure they know how to make each profile private, so they don’t accidentally share personal information with strangers. It will also help with blocking malicious or inappropriate content.

And most important - talk to them regarding the risks they could potentially be exposed to and how to deal with them. Make sure they feel free to talk to you if they observe anything offensive. They may be swept up in peer pressure and not understand the damage that they could be doing to their reputations.

As parents, we need to set some consistent boundaries to keep our teens safe. We need to help them understand that what they put out there now doesn’t just go away. They may not be thinking about their careers right now, but as adults we know how damaging it can be for a potential employer to see some carelessly posted words or pics.

Some good questions for teens to ask themselves before they post:

1) Would you be comfortable having your future boss see this?
2) Would you want your Grandmother to see your post?
3) Could someone use the information or pictures against you?

Social Media is a great way for teens to connect - it’s not all bad. You just need to remember the world is watching and help your teens by setting some rules and monitoring their use. Social media is not going away. The bottom line is we want them to be safe!

- Lonny Dockendorf, The Broadband Guy