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Raising Teenagers-Part 6: Social Media Safety

Raising Teens - Social Media and Safety

Most teenagers have access to cell phones and social media in today’s society.  For kids and teens, it’s an essential part of their lives. While there are plenty of good things about social media, there are also more ways for kids to be placed in vulnerable positions.

How do you protect your child from the dangers of social media?

It’s very important for parents to teach their children how to use social media wisely.

Social media can help kids meet and connect with people with similar interests, volunteer or get involved with a cause they’re interested in, explore their creativity through ideas, music and art, and stay connected with family and friends.

The bad news is that social media can be a hub for bullying and other inappropriate behavior. Without meaning to, kids are sharing more than they should online. Lots of teens post their real names, pictures, dates of birth, where they live, their school….all of which can leave them vulnerable to online predators or anyone who may want to do them harm. Many newer apps now automatically share the location where the post was made while it’s being used.

Posting an inappropriate photo can damage a person’s reputation, even years later, when submitting college or job applications and a background check is run. Even a post that is meant as a joke can be seen as a threat.

Just being on social media can make a child question herself. Seeing friends having fun, how many “likes” or friends they have can make her feel that she doesn’t measure up to her peers.

When a child doesn’t receive a message back on social media, she can wonder what she did wrong and feel hurt about it.

It’s important to be aware of what your socially connected child is doing online, but prying too much can weaken the trusting relationship you already have. Stay involved in a way that your child knows you respect her privacy, but also want to make sure she’s safe.

Here are some helpful tips you can share with your teen:

Be kind. Never post any mean comments or messages about other people and always tell someone if they see that happen to another child.

Think twice before posting. Remind them that things they post can potentially be used against them. Thieves watch social media for people who are on vacation so they can utilize that opportunity. Never post that they are home alone, or give specific locations for parties and other events.

If you don’t want your grandparents to see it, don’t post it. Even though a picture disappears or is deleted, it’s still out there in cyberspace and can reemerge years later with damaging effects. If it’s not appropriate for grandma, don’t post it.

Parental controls. Teach them about privacy settings and how to protect themselves, and how to keep their password confidential. Parents can also put limits on the time allowed on social media sites, where it is being used (not in bedrooms or bathrooms), and no phones at the dinner table. That goes for you too, mom and dad!

Make a social media agreement where your child can agree to protect their own privacy, consider their reputation, and not give out personal information. Furthermore, they promise to never use technology to hurt anyone else (through bullying or gossip). In turn, parents agree to respect teens’ privacy while making an effort to be part of the social media world by not posting embarrassing things about them.

Here are some popular apps where your teenager may spend some time:

Snapchat. Snapchat is a really fun app with filters and it’s ephemeral qualities are very appealing because it seems like there will be no digital permanence.

Things you should know:

  1. Pictures and texts disappear after a certain amount of time, so it’s hard for parents to monitor what the child is actually doing.
  2. Disappearing pictures can be screenshot and saved by viewers. It’s possible that this could be spread to others via text, snaps, or other avenues and used in bullying or shaming.
  3. Names can be changed to whatever you want it to be. Sally from school can actually be someone else without your knowledge.
  4. Sexting is a real concern. Sometimes, their are snapchat accounts dedicated to this among teenagers, specific to high school or town.
  5. It’s an easy platform for bullying b it is difficult to document hateful messages. Sometimes it occures by intentionally not tagging someone included in photos or sharing images with the goal of hurting others not invited.

Facebook. In 2017, most young people aren’t on Facebook as much as they were a few years ago. These are both popular and fun ways for people to connect and share pictures, videos, ideas and thoughts. It does have messaging capabilities where bullying can occur, or it can be posted in plain site on public pages for everyone to see.

What you can do:

  • Have conversations about safety and technology early and often, in the same way that you talk to your kids about being safe at school, in the car, riding public transportation, or playing sports.
  • You probably know this already, but unless you’re really on top of social media, your teenager most likely knows more about it than you do. That’s OK. Don’t be afraid to ask your child to show you the ropes!
  • Teach them how to treat others the way you want to be treated. This also applies to using new technologies. Make sure your teens know where to go for support if someone ever harasses them. Help them understand how to make responsible and safe choices about what they post-because anything they put online can be misinterpreted or taken out of context.
  • Don’t be “friends” with people you don’t know.

Instagram. Instagram is an awesome app for sharing photos and videos. It’s actually one of my favorite apps ever!

What you should know:

  1. In a way, it’s the perfect tool for age-old adolescent popularity contests. The more likes a picture gets, the more popular and validated a teen feels. Rude or negative comments can influence a child’s self-esteem.
  2. Instagram is where the best selfies, most flattering pictures, and the “highlight reel” is usually shown.
  3. Just like any other social media site, your teen is likely to receive follow requests from strangers, some of whom could easily be posing or pretending to be someone they are not.
  4. The most common form of Instagram bullying is simply posting embarrassing or humiliating photos of the victim, which the victim would clearly not want made public.
  5. Hashtag bullying and comment bullying are a thing. Particularly when having to do with someone’s weight. Commenting ugly and hurtful things is also something that is done.
  6. Fake accounts and sharing private images. This could be the sharing of private text messages in screenshot form to humiliate the victim. Fake accounts are often use to attack people.
  7. Instagram has a “tips for parents” section that is helpful in learning more about the platform and how to keep your child safe.

As with all situations your teenager has to endure these days, keeping a strong relationship with her family is vital. This will help her navigate through these complicated years in knowing that she is loved unconditionally, respected, valued, and supported.


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