Should You Be Monitoring Your Teen’s Social Media Activity in 2018?
Its time we had the talk, the social media talk.
If you are reading this post, its probably safe to say that you belong to one of the following two groups:
- The “I’m not sure” Group – members of this group are not quite sure how they should feel about social media. They often wonder, “has my approach been TOO laid back?” “Should I be more concerned about the scary amounts of time my teen spends on platforms like Snapchat and Instagram?” Or maybe, you have been the helicopter parent of the year! By that I mean, you monitor your teens every post, like and comment. Now, you’re left wondering “am I taking it too far, am I obsessing?” And then theres…
- The “Absolutely Not” Group – members of this group absolutely refuse to let their teens take part in the social media world. In your mind, social media reeks havoc and you are making the best decision by keeping your baby far away!
Well, let me start off by saying, I am not here to tell you if you should or shouldn’t keep your teenager away from social media. This simply won’t be that kind of post. Instead, I hope to provide you with as much information as possible, to allow you to make the best decision for your family.
Alright, lets start from the beginning shall we?
In order to fully understand social media and why it became so popular, we need to first look at where it came from.
The Marriam-Webster online dictionary defines social media as:
Forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos).
As parents, we can detest social media all we want, but hey, even me sharing this blog post with you is a form of social media. Now you might be saying “oh no it isn’t” but yes, yes it is. At its core, social media fulfills the desire for people to be able to communicate with one another from all over the world. That said, if I send a tweet or share a photo online, its immediately accessible by family and friends living in other countries and provinces. Now lets be clear, our darling teens weren’t the first generation to be interested in this.
Below I’ve attached a short but sweet video to recap the history of social media. You’ll see what I mean!
Alright, I’ll admit it, “social media” has come a long way from the snail mail and mores code that our grand and great grandparents once used, but the purpose is all the same, staying connected. In Canada, Ontario is said to be the most “connected” province with 67% of residents using some type of social media platform. On the other hand, Quebec is said to be the least “connected” with only 49% of the population on social media platforms. (Form more Canadian Facts around social media -CLICK HERE-).
Now, some of the more modern forms of communication like Twitter and Facebook, is where we as adults are happiest. In Canada, 82% of Facebook users are 25+ years in age. Whereas, the obsession for platforms like Instagram and Snapchat seems to be for eat younger generation. Kids aged 13-17 seems to be the largest group of Canadians on these sites.
Don’t believe me? Ask your kids, or any teen for that matter “hey, do you have a facebook account?” I can bet my entire life savings (which isn’t much), that they will say “no!” I can also guarantee that the moment you ask, they will immediately file you in the “old people” category in their mind. So say bye bye to being the “cool” parent.
No, I’m not saying that your old but, I am saying that like everything in life, things change and technology evolves.
So, now that we have a better understanding of what social media is, lets dive into the good, the bad and the ugly of what social media has become today.
You might not want to hear this but, there is some good in the social media our kids obsess over. Some of the biggest advantages for teens is that its helped them to gain the following:
Social media allows your teen to stay connected and follow organizations they are passionate about and believe strongly in. Feeling like you are apart of something can do wonders for the teen who feels left out in everyday life.
With the hundreds of pictures and videos going viral each day, displaying the experiences of poverty, war and inequality from people all over the world, teens have the chance to finally comprehend “its not all about me”. I remember when my teachers and parents would tell me about the things happening all over the world, in the hopes it would make me appreciate what I had. Yes, in those brief moments, it would work. I’d feel selfish and icky, but it would quickly go away. Now, our teens are able to see it first hand. That alone has the potential to quickly put things into perspective. If you’re lucky, they might even help to minimize those crazy mood swings.
If you have a quiet, timid introvert at home, you know just as well as I do, that they can become an entirely different person online. Not having to speak their minds or share their interests directly in-front of their judgemental peers is very comforting. You might even learn things you never knew about your child by following them on Instagram or Snapchat! This one can easily become a disadvantage which leads me to…
I know, I know, “finally she gets to the good stuff” right? Yup, here it is! For my parents who’s scrolled past The History and The Good, you better scroll right back on up and get to reading!
Ok, so lets be candid. The online world in general, can be very unforgiving and easily fool the naïve. With search engines like Google and Bing. Your teen rarely believes what they are told until they have punched it into Google for confirmation. I can tell you right now, as a science teacher, not a day goes by without one of my students using Google to check my facts. Like, “ummmmm hello! I spent thousands of dollars going to school for this. But yeah, just check Google, they know best!” The sad part is, although no teacher will admit it, sometimes Google DOES know more than us! Either way, right or wrong, if they saw it online, its true, and they will believe it over you!
You already know this one, once they have data or wifi, say goodbye to them getting any work done. Alright, maybe not ANY work done, but a lot of work done. Social media has the tendency to prevent people from staying focused regardless of what they may be working on. Now, we can’t completely blame social media for all of our distraction problems. Believe me when I say, if it weren’t social media, it would be something else.
It can be addictive
Studies have shown that when people receive likes or comments under their posts on social media the hormone dopamine is released. This hormone is associated to the motivational component of behaviour that is typically rewarded.
Ultimately, the same way a alcoholic may look forward to their next shot of rum, many people look forward to that positive response from a post.
As I’m sure you have guessed, this can be problematic as it has the potential to increase the rate of depression.
You knew it was coming, we have to get serious and talk about some of the bigger issues us parents may have with our kids using social media. Some of the major concerns I personally have are:
This is one even I struggle with as a blogger. Once you put things out into the online world, you can never get it back. The same goes for our teens. Sometimes it’s a post, text or even Snapchat story. Kids are constantly publishing their experiences and feelings without a second thought. It might start off as a harmless joke but quickly, that post can become the next biggest scandal at school. The next thing you know, you have your sobbing child, with boogers and tears running down their face, distraught because they have no idea how everyone misunderstood their last post. Which leads me to my next point…
Theres no question, with 1 in 3 teens being effected by cyber-bulling, it is by far one of the biggest concerns for parents. Not only due to the fact that our kids can easily be targeted but also how easy it is for our children to become The Bully. Lets be honest, people seem to be bolder and ready to attack when they’re behind a screen. Our kids included.
Yet, as parents we have to trust that we have instilled good practices in our teens. That includes provided an open space for them to freely share their experiences with us.
It goes without saying, the internet has also given predators a vehicle to access our precious children. According to Statistics Canada, in 2017 it was reported that 16% of all “sexual violations against children” were those considered luring a child via telecommunications. This one is scary, but ultimately our reality.
As parents, we will only ever do our best to keep our children safe! For your family this may involve educating your teen/pre-teen about internet safety. For others, this my include investing in parental control software such as myspy.
Regardless of what you choose, my biggest advice is to realize that you, and your teen will never view the world the same way. They grew up in a world where the internet and cell phones were always available. For you and me, we once knew a world without it.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is to embrace life’s changes, and do your best to keep an open mind. That way you avoid the “YOU JUST DON’T GET IT MOM!”
Until next time,