Tweens today face a whole new set of obstacles in the social landscape that did not exist when their parents were at that stage. With evolving technology, there are numerous benefits but also some causes for concern. How do parents help guide children through this?
Which apps are most popular?
Snapchat is a program that allows users to send photos, videos and chats directly to other users who they have added as a friend. These messages disappear immediately after viewing and can only be replayed one time. Users can also add photos and videos to their story, which is viewable by all of their friends, but disappear in 24 hours. Because these messages disappear quickly, children may have a false feeling of security in the information they send. Receivers can screenshot messages but the sender is notified of any screenshots. Snapchat contains an option to show your location to friends, a security feature that can be turned on or off.
You may have noticed your child doing choreographed dances when certain songs come on the radio and wondered where they learned the moves. TikTok is an app where users upload videos up to 60 seconds. Videos can be created within the app or can be uploaded from outside sources. TikTok is popular with the younger crowd for learning dances but there is content of all topics available. Users under 13 cannot post videos or comment and the content is edited to appeal to a younger audience. Children ages 13 to 15 have private accounts by default and only friends can comment on videos posted. Ensuring that your child enters the correct birthdate in the setup process can shield some of the content and ability to interact with others.
Instagram allows users to post photos or videos in a post that remains on their page permanently. Users may also post photo or video stories that expire after 24 hours unless a user saves the story for future reference. Instagram accounts can be public, allowing any other user to follow them, or they may be set to private and other accounts that wish to follow them must be approved. What users see on their home page Instagram feed relies heavily on what topics and users they follow.
As a parent, how do I navigate this online social media landscape?
As a parent, the decision is yours as to what you think is appropriate for your child. A child’s age, maturity, social group and other factors will weigh into how you wish to address this topic. Tweens connect with each other through social media apps as well as interact with the larger world outside of the classroom. Social media is where they hear the latest news, interact with their friends and expand their horizons. In many senses, social media has replaced television as a downtime activity.
Social Media Cyberbullying Quick Stats
- 31% of young adults report that their peers misunderstand their texts or social media posts. (Cyberbullying Research Center)
- 9% of young adults report people posting embarrassing pictures of them on social media sites without permission. (Pew Research)
- 38% of people see instances of cyberbullying on social media daily. (Statista)
How Can I Protect My Children?
Social media has been tagged as a platform for bullying. Sometimes people feel bolder behind the safety of a screen than they would in a face to face interaction. This may cause them to make hurtful comments that they would never make in person. If you decide to allow your children access to social media apps, there are some safeguards you can put in place to help create a positive interaction. Sit with your child as they set up accounts. Know their passwords. Check privacy settings and ensure that all accounts are set to private. You may also have the child request your permission for accounts they wish to follow and permission to allow requests to follow them. Privacy settings may also remove the location finder. Have an open and honest discussion about the dangers of posting personal information such as name, location, where they live, or other personally identifying features. Be open and honest about online predators to the extent of what is age appropriate. Reiterate that once something is posted online, it is always out there, even if it “disappears” after 24 hours. Discuss that they should not post anything that would be uncomfortable if a parent or principal saw it. Check accounts regularly for private messages, comments on posts, and anything else you want to see. One way to help monitor accounts is to set up your own accounts and connect with your child online. You may also wish to have them use the apps only in your presence. Check in regularly with your child to look for bullying or other potentially harmful situations.
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