Parenting in the age of social media
Online safety starts in offline conversations
There’s no app for parenting teens online today – yet according to a recent PEW Research survey 95 percent of teenagers have access to a smartphone while almost half, 45 percent claim they are online constantly. That’s up significantly from the last survey in 2015 when it was 24 percent were on almost constantly.
What else has changed?
Where the kids are virtually hanging out.
In 2015, 71 percent of teens were still using Facebook as their primary social scene. Today it’s dropped to fourth place. In the lead is YouTube at 85 percent, Instagram 72 percent and Snapchat at 69 percent.
Parenting in the age of technology
No matter where our kids and teens are gravitating to online, parenting doesn’t change.
Like growing up offline, it’s never without challenges, however today it’s compounded with their digital life being as important as their real one. As a matter of fact, most teen’s believe that their online life is their life – period.
Although many parents may think of social media (technology) as an addiction, the young people see it as a distraction.
Aren’t most parents just as connected or distracted as their kids?
Parents are a major influence in their child’s life. Role-modeling is a priority, whether mom is texting and driving or dad is scrolling through his phone while talking to you, leading by example is how kids will develop their own digital habits.
We all must be aware of our online behavior at all times. Parents should be monitoring their children’s activity, but make no mistake about it, your kids are also watching you. If you’re cyber-gossiping, it gives them permission to do the same.
According to the recent PEW survey over a quarter of the teens (27 percent) have struggled with cyberbullying or harmful rumors.
Once upon a time, a teen wanting to be mean might tear some paper from a binder, scribble something nasty about a classmate, and pass it around school, sending it into the rumor mill for a week or so. Today, these slams are posted online for all the world to see, and they have the potential to inflict much more harm on their victim’s psyche.
Resilience is a word we’re all familiar with, however with the rise of online hate and harassment, it’s imperative to discuss with our teen’s about building digital resilience.
You don’t have to be tech savvy to be talk with your child about online behavior. How you treat people online is not any different than how you would face-to-face — you’re teen needs to hear this from you.
If they are being threatened or harmed online, be sure they know they are able to come to you (without judgement) and also be sure they have a backup plan if you’re not available.
It helps to understand why some tweens and teens don’t tell parents when bad things happen:
1) Fear of consequences: Your child’s online existence is a critical part of their social life. With all their friends online, being excluded would be devastating them. They don’t want to risk you banning them from their friends and their digital lives.
2) Humiliation and embarrassment: Our kids are human and have feelings. Although some kids portray a tough persona and believe they are invincible, deep down everyone feels hurt by cruel keystrokes. Your child may fear looking stupid or weak.
3) Fear of making it worse: We have taught our children well so they understand that bullies are looking for attention. By reporting the incident of cyberbullying to a parent, your child may fear it could anger the bully and make matters worse for them online. In some cases bullies will enlist more online trolls to cyber-mob your child. Of course the child’s dreaded fear is his or her parent reporting it to their school or camp and more people knowing whereby they become a possible target in the future.
Is your teen aware of the consequences of sending nudes and sexting? This is a discussion that should be ongoing. As we frequently read headlines of sexting scandals in middle schools and high schools, never believe it can’t happen to you.
Remember, your teen may always be an app ahead of you – but you still need to be involved in all areas of parenting – and that includes digital parenting. Be interested in all apps your kids are using- even if you don’t understand them.
For more parent digital wisdom, order Shame Nation: Choosing Kindness and Compassion In the Age of Cruelty and Trolling (Sourcebooks) that is now in paperback.
- Preventing digital disasters
- Defending your online reputation
- Building digital resilience
- Reclaiming online civility
Contact Sue Scheff for media interviews.