Teens and Social Media: Start Safely

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Video Transcript

Cody: Excuse me, Anthony. This is the time when the kids start going, “Hey, I want to try this thing out.”

Ryan: Yeah.

Cody: And then their parents would start getting sweaty palms and you’re like, “Oh.”

Ryan: And especially spring break, they’re gonna experiment. They’re gonna try things out. Sorry, I’ve got a little frog in my voice today so bear with me. But the interesting thing was a Pew research study came out last year and it said that 57% of 13 and 14 year-olds are gonna use Facebook, 44% of them use Instagram and 21% use Twitter. And so kids are doing it already and so parents just need to be aware. And we’ve got some cool tips on how you can help things along without the kids getting out of control.

Cody: Okay, okay.

Ryan: So last year CNN did this great show on being 13. They took over seven months. They took 200 different 13 year-olds and followed them and saw what they did online. And they found ultimately that children who felt that their parents were monitoring their activity online were noticeably less distressed about some of the things that happened online. From bullying to people posting mean things about them or their friends or feeling left out of social situations.

Cody: Oh, that’s interesting. Okay.

Ryan: When parents are allowing their kids to start getting into social media, you want to start setting up boundaries first. When is it an appropriate time for them to be online? You want to make sure that you set boundaries about dinnertime or how much time they can spend online.

You want to tell them about sometimes when you’re online, friends are gonna post mean things or they’re gonna say weird things and you just want to make sure you let them know that that’s gonna be happening so they’re prepared for it. And let them know that their behavior is important, too, because friends support friends. They aren’t mean to other friends and you don’t want them to accidentally bully somebody else by saying something mean about what somebody’s wearing or doing.

Cody. Gotcha, okay.

Ryan. You want to also when you set up the accounts, make sure you set up the accounts with them so you’ve got the passwords. Make sure you’ve got location tracking on so that way you can see where they’re posting from. And here’s a quick tip…

Cody: Okay.

Ryan: …is a lot of times when you do this, the kids’ll set up a secondary account that you don’t know about. And so every now and then, just take a look at their phone and see what account they’re posting to to make sure they’re not having a secret, sly account you don’t know about.

Cody: Ah. Gotcha

Ryan: Also when you get started, let them start with Instagram. Instagram’s just a little bit easier. It’s just pictures. It’s much easier for them to get involved with without having to worry about too much of interaction with other people. Also sometimes on Facebook and places, there are predators. There are people that are looking for younger kids that are getting on. And so Instagram just makes it a lot easier because it’s more one-way communication rather than two-way communication.

Cody: Ah. Gotcha, gotcha, gotcha.

Ryan: When they get on Facebook and Twitter, you want to make sure you hold off on Twitter a little bit. Twitter’s a little bit more of a mind dumping ground. It’s for about, “I’m gonna say these things really fast, I’m gonna say a bunch of stuff.” So you want to just hold off on Twitter as much as you can.

But when you’re on Facebook, you want to find out if they’re more of a lurker, where they’re just watching what all their friends are doing rather than interacting with their friends. And make sure that they are interacting and not just sitting there. Because here’s the thing about Facebook…we all know this as adults…is it’s our perfect life on Facebook.

Cody: Right.

Ryan: But sometimes the kids don’t get that and they see all their friends having all this fun and they’re like, “Oh, I’m not…I don’t have the perfect life that Jane has and I just don’t know.”

Cody: That’s right. FOMO.

Ryan: So let them know that what you’re seeing on Facebook isn’t real. It is their perfect life. It is what they’re presenting. But in the meantime, you want to be a lurker and watch what your kids are doing but don’t use that as your only social signal of how well your kid is doing. Because again they can put their perfect life online and go, “Oh, my kid’s so popular and lovable. Everybody thinks they’re awesome.” Well, maybe they’re not.

So you want to also let them know that sometimes they’ll feel left out in social situations and that’s okay. And let them know that you feel the same way as an adult. Sometimes you see your friends out having fun and you’re at home going, “This really stinks.” And just let them know that’s just part of reality.

Cody: FOMO’s a thing. Fear of missing out, man. I really think that your voice really helped out. You’re talking about teenagers and it sounded like you’re going through puberty. It was great.

Ryan: Yeah.

Cody: It really added to the segment. All right, Ken Rudolph, back to you.

Teens and social media have been connected ever since the days of Myspace. According to the Pew research Center: 57% of teenagers age 13 and 14 use Facebook, 44% use Instagram, and 21% use Twitter. With such high rates of involvement on social media, teens are being exposed to more and more content each day. Last year, CNN produced a report titles, “Being Thirteen” in which they reviewed social media posts from 200 different participating 13 year olds. What CNN found was that parental involvement is key to social media success for teens, they stated, “Children who felt like their parents were monitoring their activities online were noticeably less distressed by online conflict.”

The co-author of the report, “Being Thirteen” offered a few suggestions for parents to help get their teens started on social media safely. The first step is to agree on boundaries. When your teenager expresses interest in joining a social media network, discuss their goals. Talk about making it positive, like posting to support friends instead of posting mean or embarrassing images or comments. Teens and social media may have a negative connotation to some, but it is important for parents to talk about the negatives of social media: people can be cruel. By setting rules such what hours of the day are off limits for social media, or telling your teen how much time is too much spent online, parents can control the introduction to social media and exposure to negative commentary. For parents that have social media channels of their own, let your teen know that you will be friending or following them. When your teen is creating their account, try to go through the process with them so that you have the password for the account. This way you can periodically login to ensure that they have not changed any restrictions or settings, you can set their privacy settings so that random people can not find them, and you can turn off location so that followers will now know your teens physical location whenever they post something.

Another tip for introducing teens and social media is to begin with Instagram. Generally, Instagram is a more positive community and the posting is less frequent (about one picture per day). Once your teen has gotten the hang of Instagram and had some first-hand experience with negative users, they can consider making a Facebook account. It is usually a good idea to hold off on creating a Twitter account with your teen, because Twitter posts require less forethought and the nature of Twitter encourages blurting out whatever is on your mind which could be very negative. The co-author also states to beware of “lurking”. Lurking is defined as spending time scrolling through and watching others post, but not posting themselves. Those who lurk throughout social media channels tend to be less happy with their social media experience. By talking to your teen about how social media does not represent real life, or finding offline activities for them to engage in, your teen is less likely to feel left out of other people’s fun.

Teens use many forms of social media

Speaking of “lurking” it is important for parents to become lurkers themselves. Teens and social media can be a volatile mix, which is why it is crucial to be a silent, watchful friend. By not making your presence obvious to friends, you can see how your teen and their friends act without a filter. This is the best way to be there in case your teen does not know what is safe or might be harmful to others. Parents should remember not to correct or coddle to soon, unless it is an emergency. It is important to let teens make their own mistakes so that they can learn from them, but if you can prevent certain disaster by intervening, feel free to do so.

Even though you might follow your child on social media, it is important to know that their posts do not gauge how they are really feeling. Remember that social media does not represent real life, so ask your child how they feel about something that is happening online rather than relying on comments or emoji’s. Parents can also help by sharing their experiences: times when you have felt left out, times when a comment hurt your feelings, and let them know that it can happen to adults too, it does not end with high school. Teens and social media has been a hot topic for quite some time, but it is crucial to remember that your teen is still socially uncouth: they may post too often or embarrass themselves or other with photos or comments, but in the end they will figure it all out. Parents must understand that they can not protect their teens from embarrassment or hurt feelings, they have to grow and learn with your support.

About The Author: Andrea Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at callnerds.com/andrea/.