To say that recent technology has changed the way that many tweens and teens socialize, may be an understatement. For many, social media is a way of life. It’s how they share and communicate with their friends. Although social media may be the norm, parental boundaries and open communication are essential to help your child stay safe and protected.
According to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, it’s illegal for social websites and apps to allow children under age 13 to open an online account without verifiable parental consent. Despite that; however, surveys indicate that the majority of 10 to 12-year olds use social media. Even if you hold off on giving your child a phone or other mobile device, they’re likely to be exposed to some of the popular social apps that their peers are using.
I recommend that all parents talk to their tweens and teens about social media, and establish clear boundaries on what is allowed and what is not. Keep in mind that even children without access to mobile devices or permission to download apps can still access many social networks through the Internet and a computer.
A social media contract can be a great way of spelling out social media rules and boundaries for children, and letting them know what the consequences will be if rules are not followed. You can create your own social media contract or find numerous examples online. Here’s an example of a social media contract.
It’s also important to talk to kids about the potential negative outcomes of certain posts. While many posts can be deleted from a social stream, screenshots and other sharing methods make it nearly impossible to ensure total deletion. You often can’t take back what you say (or hear) on social media.
Cyberbullying is a common example of what happens when social media is used in a negative way. While anyone can be a target or perpetrator of cyberbullying, it’s most commonly seen amongst teens and tweens. Cyberbullying can also be harder for parents to spot, since the posts and comments are made in teen circles, which are often unseen by adults. Cyberbullying can negatively impact your child or another child’s self-esteem. It’s important to talk to your child about cyberbullying. Let him or her know that they should speak up if they witness cyberbullying, or if they become a victim themselves.
College admissions is another area that can be negatively impacted by social media. In an U.S. News article, it was stated that over 1/3 of college admissions officers consider social media accounts before making an admission decision.
Listed below, are some of the popular social networks that many teens and tweens use. It’s important to note that new social sites and apps are being developed every day. What’s popular today, may not be as popular in a year. And, what may be “in” in a year, may not be available today. This is another reason why parental boundaries and open communication are essential.
Instagram – Instagram is a Facebook-owned picture and video sharing app that’s heavily used by adults and teens. Instagram “stories” allow users to share their experiences by showcasing up to 10 pictures and/or videos on one post, which automatically disappears after 24 hours. Youth like following their friend’s experiences, keeping up with their favorite celebrities, and viewing pictures and videos.
Snapchat – According to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey in 2017, 75% of teens use the Snapchat app. Last year, Snapchat introduced Snap Map, a mapping feature that shares your teen’s location with a charming “Actionmoji” every time they open the app. (It can be set to Ghost Mode to turn this function off.) Teens like Snapchat because it’s fun and they get to share silly life moments with their friends.
Facebook – Although Facebook isn’t as popular with teens as it used to be, many teens still have an account. One thing that teens like about Facebook is it’s very easy to use and they can keep up with family online. Teens tend to prefer the messenger app rather than posting on timelines due to concerns about their parents or other adults “snooping around”.
Twitter – Originally a place to make short posts (Prior maximum character count was 140, but it’s now 280), teens like Twitter because it’s an easy way to stay current with what’s happening in the media and with their favorite celebrities.
WhatsApp – WhatsApp is another Facebook-owned company that is a popular messaging app. Although it’s gaining popularity among teens, it’s still not as popular as Instagram and Snapchat. WhatsApp allows users to send text messages, audio messages, videos, and photos to one or many people with no message limits or fees. Youth like it because it’s an easy way to connect with friends and family, it’s free, and it allows them to have group chats.
Tumblr – Tumblr is a microblogging and social networking app that allows users to write, share and discover text and photos about any topic that interests them. Due to the access of adult content (pornography and more) and a lack of privacy settings, some sources such as smartsocial.com place the site on the Red Zone list for younger teens.
Sarahah – The Sarahah app is a trending app that allows users to send anonymous messages about a person’s strengths, or as the site puts it, “areas of improvement.” This can be a harmful app for teens because they get to hide behind the mask of anonymity and say whatever they want to the receiver. Teens commonly embed their Sarahah link into their Snap Story on Snapchat and post the link for all their followers to access and anonymously comment. Parents should be cautious if their teen is using this app since this can be a common place for cyberbullying.
Video apps like Marco Polo, House Party and FireChat are the new chat rooms that many teens are also using. Marco Polo promotes itself as a video “walkie-talkie.” You make a video and send it. In response, your friend makes a video. All the videos live in a queue; you add a video when it’s convenient. One thing that parents should keep in mind is that they can easily be deleted, so if your child is sexually harassed or bullied, it can be difficult to obtain proof.
YouTube – On average, teens spent 34% of their video time watching YouTube. In fact, more teens use YouTube than any other social networking site. Teens can also upload videos onto their own channels. Parents of younger teens and children should be mindful of the types of content that their children may be watching.
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