Teens & Social Media: The Unattended Playground

In a recent 7th grade class I discussed the responsible use of cell phones. While in class I did a quick survey to see what percentage of my students actually had cell phones and who used social media. I’ve included the numbers below along with a few points to ponder.

  • 93% of our 7th graders have a cell phone, iPod, or tablet. While you can’t make phone calls on all of them, you can interact via social media.
  • 32% use Twitter
  • 58% use Facebook
  • 59% have YouTube accounts which allow them to post videos
  • 36% use Google+ which is like Facebook
  • 51% use Skype
  • 51% use Snap Chat
  • 59% use Instagram
  • 55% use Kik
  • 53% use Vine
My intent with this information is to show that kids are active on these platforms, several of which require parent permission. Being on these is neither good nor bad, but the behavior that takes place on them is quite often of an unsavory nature.

“Curiously, the minimum age on LinkedIn is 14. On WhatsApp it’s 16, and on Vine it’s 17. Some platforms, such as YouTube, WeChat and Kik, have a minimum age required of 18, although kids aged 13-17 can signup with parent’s permission.”

Does your child use these sites? If so, do you have access to his/her password and username? There is plenty of good that can be gained from the above sites/apps, but it is just as easy to see and experience negative things. Like an unsupervised playground, the internet has all sorts of possibilities for mayhem and for your child to be influenced in ways you do not approve of.

Consider the following article: Are Your Kids Hiding Their Apps?

Also, a program called Team Viewer will allow you to watch your child’s activity on the computer without them knowing. Sounds like a secret spy tactic doesn’t it? You may have access to all their accounts but they may also have accounts that you don’t know about. Plus, the instant message feature of Facebook is easily kept secret. So, if you really want to watch what your child is doing on the internet (while they do it in the next room in real time), you can get a free version for your home use.

Some things to consider if you go this route. First, you need two computers. There’s the one they’re on and the one you are watching them from. Second, this needs to only be done through computers you own. There are all sorts of privacy issues if you start watching on computers that aren’t yours or if you watch someone other than your child. Third, is  your child’s stage in life such that you really need to do this? You may have a level of trust here that will be breached if your child finds out. However, if you are worried he/she is hiding something from you, it is ok to start investigating. Finally, you can’t let your child know you are doing this. If you run into the next room out of anger and yell, “I saw what you just typed” they’ll know you’re watching. Then, the one and only window you had is now gone. This may keep them off those sites for a long time which isn’t a bad thing but they will find other ways to keep stuff from you if they are already doing it. So, be careful of how you handle this tool.

Parents must take steps to ensure that their child is growing and developing appropriately. This means to the point of monitoring their internet use because of the immense influence it can have on young minds.