What You Should Know about Your Child’s Social Media Use
Did you know that more than 90 percent of teens in the United States use some kind of social media today? In a technology-saturated world, children are growing up to be what’s often referred to as digital natives. While new technologies can offer many learning opportunities online, they can also bring about challenges for parents to manage their children’s digital screen time or protect them from being bullied online.
That’s why it’s important to discuss social media usage with your child. Talking about topics like kindness, reputation, and permanence related to your child’s social media accounts is one way to help him or her stay safe online. But first, let’s see how older children are using social media today.
What Social Media Platforms Are Teens Using?
Social media websites include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and YouTube, among others. These are the main sites for teens, according to a Piper Jaffray study, with Instagram topping the list at a 76 percent usage rate among teen social media users in the fall of 2014. Twitter usage follows Instagram at 59 percent.
What Are Teens Doing on Social Media?
Teens use social media as a means of communication between peers, which accounts for the shift from Facebook to other platforms. As parents and older generations create Facebook accounts, teens are looking for social media platforms that allow them to escape and openly communicate.
Apart from communication, teens also use these accounts to figure out what their peers like. By posting photos, links, and status updates, teens are able to monitor feedback and determine what can grab their peers’ attention.
There are differences, however, in how teens use the different platforms.
Instagram is the top social media platform among teens. Users tend to post more sparingly and thoughtfully, which makes the Instagram experience more pleasant than other social media platforms for teens. Users are not barraged with constant notifications, and not every move a user makes on the interface is broadcast to a news feed. This erases the pressures and constraints of a site like Facebook.
Twitter popularity is slowly decreasing for teens. Twitter can be a means for teens to share their thoughts where parents and other adults may not see them. Teens can also use this site to gain followers and have their voices heard by the Twitter community, including people they may not know. Others simply use this site to keep up with friends, gossip, and news.
Facebook is fading as a social platform among teens. Falling from 72 percent teen usage in spring of 2014 to 45 percent by the fall, Facebook is becoming less appealing and is used mainly for its group functions. Facebook is used by younger generations to check up on their groups, make the initial online connection with others, and message peers.
These statistics are important to note because your child’s social media profile can be seen not only by his or her peers, but also by future employers, college admissions advisors, coaches, and more. Some of the information children and teens share online may also be unsafe to share, so be aware of how your child is using his or her account.
—Suren Ramasubbu, about parenting in the digital age, in the Huffington Post
What Can I Do to Keep My Child Safe on Social Media?
Look over the privacy and usage policies to find a website you feel comfortable allowing your child or teen to use. Take a look at the terms about privacy settings and determine if you want your child to have a certain privacy setting on his or her profile.
Consider the pros and cons of monitoring software such as Net Nanny or Mobicip. If you have thoughts about setting up software to monitor or censor your child’s online activity, factor in your child’s age and your trust level with him or her as you weigh your options.
Set rules for online behavior, including what social networks your child may use and when. You can also set posting guidelines, such as what pictures are appropriate to post and what personal information can be shared.
Talk to your child about the implications a social media post could have on his or her adult life. Make it clear that although many social networking sites allow users to choose privacy settings, there are ways for people to access users’ accounts despite these settings.
Know the warning signs of cyberbullying and how to handle an online bullying situation if one arises. Check your child’s know-how to stand up for a cyberbullied victim and properly report any bullying activities he or she witnesses online.
Discuss the permanency of the Internet. Even things that are deleted online can be found through the Wayback Machine or in personal caches. Posts on social media can last longer than a memory, so let your child know that what he or she posts may be seen forever.
Teach your child to search for his or her name. Search engines such as Google can pull data on your child that he or she may not even know exists on the Internet. Other sites to check include people-search engines, such as Zabasearch.com and Pipl.com, which can pull information from public records, social profiles, and more to create a report on an individual. You can also set up Google Alerts attached to your child’s name, which will notify you any time his or her name appears in an article or story.
Talk to your child about “checking in.” Some social media sites allow users to check into locations, which allows other users to see where your child is or has been. Let your child know what the dangers behind making this information public are.
Be cautious of “catfish.” These fabricated online identities are created to deceive others online, generally to trick others into romantic relationships. Your child should be cautious when talking to others via social profiles and know how to spot a fake profile.
Social media can be a great outlet for your child to socialize and connect with groups of students with similar interests. Social media sites and technology are evolving constantly. With a little diligence, parents can provide some boundaries that allow for a safe exploration of becoming a teenager.
Does your child use social media to connect with friends or peer groups? Share your stories with us in the comments below!