Socialization and Social Media:
Social media and the internet can be both a positive and negative for teens. Social networking can be positive in that it allows a place for teens to connect with other teens who have similar interests and goals. It sometimes allows them to be more open and confident because they can take time to think about what they are going to say and how they are going to say it. It can also allow teens a place to cry out for help and talk openly to peers about their problems. It can be negative in that teens get too caught up in the comparison game and can start to feel worthless because they don’t have as many friends, they aren’t as pretty or athletic, or they aren’t smart or rich, the list goes on and on. Some platforms also enable kids to chat anonymously which can lead to kids continuing in dangerous behaviors with the acceptance of others who are also engaging in those dangerous behaviors.
Educate yourself about social media:
Know what sites your kids belong to and what these sites are about. How do their privacy settings work, can anyone reach out to them, what information does your child post and who has access to it? It is a good idea for parents to also have an account on any social media platform that your kid is a part of, that way you are familiar with how it works and you can also friend or follow your child/teen to make sure that they are being appropriate. Parents should be advised that some kids will create “parent” accounts that you are aware of and that they know you will check. But they may also create alternative accounts that you may not know about. If you have a good relationship with the parents of your kid’s friend’s as well as their friends, chances are you will happen upon those sites through communication with other parents and sometimes by friending one of their friends.
Establish age limits for allowing your kids to have social media accounts:
Most social media platforms require kids to be at least 13 years old to create an account. So that may be a good age to start engaging in social media. Be cautious if your child already has a difficult time socially or seems to have a fragile self-esteem. Social media could create more problems for your child and be a negative experience. For adolescents social media and texting can allow them to act more impulsively and be cruel and unkind. It’s much easier when the person you are hurting is not standing right in front of you for you to see their reaction and pain. Because of this there is less accountability for their actions and more bullying taking place.
Talk to your kids about the dangers and consequences of social media:
It is important that you let kids know the dangers of posting too much information about themselves, pictures that show their school or other easily identifiable locations and inappropriate pictures or messages. It is important that kids understand not only the laws and consequences of posting inappropriate pictures/content but the long term effects. It can impact their academic career, internships, athletic or other extracurricular opportunities and current or future employment. Some posts may even result in criminal cases, which could come with severe consequences and jeopardize several aspects of their lives.