With the rise of technology and the advance of social media, parenting teenagers has gotten a lot more complicated. Not only do parents need to keep tabs on where their child is and who they are with physically, they now need to monitor where they go online. Teenagers who are longing for the freedom and independence characteristic of their age may not be willing to keep their parents informed of what types of sites and forms of social media they use to connect with others. Even the most diligent, phone/internet checking parent can be outdistanced by the staggering array of options available to their children these days. With the rise in cyber bullying and the danger of personal online connections, it is more important than ever to know what to look for when monitoring your child’s internet use. Although it is an ever evolving battle, here is a list of some of the most popular sites teens frequent.
Although this one might be fairly obvious, and you may even be “friends” with your child on this popular networking site, keep in mind that it is a common platform for cyber bullying. In addition, teens may gauge their self worth based on the number of “likes” and comments that they have received which can damage already fragile self esteem.
At best, this site is a place where friends can share pictures and view those of their friends, however, it remains largely unmonitored for anything lewd or pornographic. Your child can see anything from any account that remains “public” and you will have no record of what they viewed. Similarly, unless your teen’s account is set to “private” where they have to approve those who can see their images, anyone can look at what they post.
Snapchat is similar to Instagram in that videos and images can be posted, however they “disappear” after a short time. Teens have seen this as an effective way to engage in “sexting” because they believe that nothing will remain to implicate them either in the future or with their parents. However, special apps can save both images and conversations and all teens should be apprised of the dangers of posting anything online that they would not want coming back to haunt them in later years.
The danger behind Ask.fm is that people are allowed to ask and answer questions anonymously. This lack of accountability frequently leads to harmful comments, both bullying and inappropriate for children. Ask.fm has generated some heat in the news as it has been linked to several teen suicides as the platform for cyber bullying.
Tumblr is much like Facebook in that it creates a kind of streaming scrapbook where the user can post pictures and comments. This site is quickly becoming more attractive to teens than Facebook and the majority of users are under 25. Parents should be aware that the first profile a user creates is guaranteed to be public. Only a second profile can be password protected. Common Sense Media also points out that Tumblr gives fairly easy access to mature content.
Vine is a Twitter owned app that allows users to post video clips up to six seconds that loop constantly. Although it can be a harmless site where members can share silly videos of themselves, basic testing showed that much of the easily browsed content is much too mature for kids. Additionally, everything posted becomes public by default, although you can adjust your settings to ‘private’.
It’s important for parents to understand that although some social media sites are more risky than others, almost all of them lend themselves to abuse of some kind. In addition to monitoring your teen’s online activity, parents should also make sure that their child is aware of some of the long reaching consequences of putting unwise images and commentary online. Social media can be a fun and effective tool for communication as long as it is used appropriately and respectfully under parental guidance.
Tyler Clark is the Online Outreach Coordinator for Liahona Academy offering education and parenting tips. Liahona Academy is located in Utah and specializes in behavioral management for teen boys.