Most teenagers today use social media of some kind at least once a day. The numbers are staggering: 93% of teens 12-17 go online, and 73% use a social media website*. But many parents may ask, “What is social media and how can I manage all the technology and keep my children safe?”
There are 50+ regular social media communication tools. Some you know and use others not: email, text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, Fourquare. Tumblr, Pinterest, chatroulette, YouTube, and 1000s of mobile APPS to name a common few. All of these mechanisms are part of the technology mania that is growing daily. If you are an adolescent and not using the latest you are quickly out of the loop. For teens and young adults technology is not moving fast enough. For parents it can be overwhelming. Protecting, monitoring and understanding take time and vigilance.
As I pack my bag for my summer vacation, with all my technology, I contemplated putting something on my Facebook “wall” to announce my journey and suddenly thought better of it. Who is going to read it? The world will know I am away in the matter of seconds. Think about what your children are doing. If they send a text, a picture or a tweet, or put something on theirs or someone else’s wall, everyone will know. There is no pulling back; it is there forever. The written word is very powerful.
It is not all bad. Your children are communicating. Many reticent children can now text a friend that they previously found hard to call. Teens are socializing in new ways. They are talking to each other through a new mechanism, in a new way. Some of the creative sites even allow adolescents to express themselves artistically which they can’t do comfortably anywhere else. Toxicity only comes when the activity is used to waste time, avoid responsibility, cyberbully, sexting, or access inappropriate content.
Socially, tweens and adolescents have had cliques since the beginning of time. We can all remember “picking on” or being “picked on”. Technology now raises the bar. The mean words are in writing and the numbers that read it can multiply like rabbits. It has changed the whole social world. In one instant, one sentence can change a student’s life. Facebook, chat rooms and at least a half a dozen commonly known sites open the door to relationships, some wanted, some unwanted, some kind and some cruel. Adding pictures, many inappropriate, can hurt beyond repair. Consequential “Facebook depression” and social media addiction are being addressed daily by pediatricians and counselors.
So now you have the facts, here is your role.
- Communicate with your kids.
- Help them be savvy users.
- Set rules and limits. Keeps technology where you can see it.
- Engage them in teaching you how to use technology. Just do not get upset if they say, “Oh, Mom don’t you get it, it’s so easy!”
- Educate them. Adolescents trust social media more than they should.
- Use it as a time to discuss bullying, predators, and facts.
- Use Parent Controls. You can subscribe to programs such as: Net Nanny, TrueCare, SocialShield, SafetyWeb .
Andrea Glovsky has been counseling in the college and independent school placement field since 1988. She has successfully helped hundreds of students by matching interests and abilities to the most appropriate school. For more information, visit her website: www.findingcolleges.com
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