Monitoring Social Media Among Teens
NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA - Kids are on social media whether parents like it or not and some may be concerned with the effects social networking online has on minors. Should we take what our kids post on Facebook at face value? Here are some tips on how to best monitor our children's online behavior and be social media savvy about it.
The way people socialize has changed over time. The landline and fax-- once viewed as innovative tools of communication have been replaced with smartphones and computers. For some mothers and fathers, technology has become a parenting aide. But this very same advance in technology can also be a danger. Social media can expose your children to things you don't want them to face.
Lorene Watson a parent in Dixie County, shares her story, "A couple of years ago it started with my youngest daughter… some very nasty comments were posted because she was trying to help a younger cousin out and we had to literally go knock on the person's door and say, 'hey you got 5 seconds to remove it off social media or I am calling the law and having you arrested.”
According to www.NoBullying.com over half of all teens who use social media have witnessed outright bullying via that medium. “We just finally decided to move out into the middle of nowhere, really. Literally in the middle of nowhere, where you don't get cell phone service, you know you're in the middle of nowhere," Watson said.
That's just one worry, sexting and encountering child molesters also concern mothers like Watson. Watson said, "We weren't meaning to but it was almost like we were the parents that were invading her privacy. Because we would constantly ask who are you talking to? What are you doing? What is being said?"
Too much time on the computer can also raise another problem. Dr. Colleen Cummings a Gainesville psychologist said, "There's some suggestion that individuals who spend a lot of time on Facebook, especially kids and teenagers who are more susceptible to these issues do have more psychological problems, such as depression or even ADHD and things like that. Although we can't draw firm causal conclusions yet, until long-term studies are done," Cummings said.
However experts say there are forms of prevention. Create privacy settings for each site according to your child's age. Set a time limit per day for their use of social media. And keep all electronics, computer/iPad in a public place-- like the living room.
"I view these types of things… I view cell phones and social media that should be viewed as a privilege right? That's not something that all kids are entitled to," Cummings said.
Join Facebook or Twitter, and don't be afraid to follow or friend your kids. Cummings said that while you don't want to embarrass your teen, you can play an active role in the background as you monitor their online behavior.
Dr. David Diehl with the University of Florida’s Department of Family/Youth said, "So as a parent you need to think about the behavior you are modeling yourself. If I am on my laptop for three hours every night, my children notice and so the first thing to look at is your own behavior," Diehl said.
A recent study by Global Web Index shows that Facebook usage among teens dropped 56 percent last year. The study says teens are now using messaging, video and photo applications such as: WeChat, Vine and Snapchat a lot more.
UF Assistant Professor of Pediatrics & Education Technology, Dr. Erik Black said, "I think as parents we're always going to be playing a game of catch up. Adolescents and young adults have moved on from Facebook, they've moved to new applications and often your children are using applications that maybe I am not even aware of, even as a researcher in this field."
Social media can also be something to benefit from, if used appropriately. "So parents really need to have that conversation about what is a healthy relationship and setting boundaries, but understanding that their understanding of what is appropriate is different from what the kids think is appropriate," Larry Green a licensed marriage & family therapist said.
In the meantime, Watson is already thinking of ways to look out for her grandkids as they'll soon start using social media too.
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