Most of you know that in addition to parenting three littles, I am a Middle School Teacher! When I first started teaching middle school, my principal and I sat down and created a mandatory class that all our 7th and 8th graders would take on technology, where we focused on safety! Of course, as a parent of some-day teenagers, I am equally concerned!
So when Amy Williams (Twitter @AmyKWilliams1) contacted me and asked if I wanted a guest post on this very important topic, I jumped at the chance! If you, like me, are a parent worried about keeping your kids safe on the internet, read this! I found the list of popular social media sites that teens are using, the most helpful! There were a few I had never heard of!!
Privacy and Social Media: What do teens look for?
As humans we value our privacy and the ability to seek solitude when desired. Children are no different when it comes to this need- although some periods of development, like the teen years, require more privacy than others. It is important for parents to understand how our teens’ desire for privacy is impacting their social media decisions.
This stage of development is usually ushered in with hormones and a desire to form a self-identity that is separate from the parents. Young adolescents begin this transition to adulthood by placing greater importance on friends and seeking activities outside of the family unit. This period can often be turbulent for a variety of reasons, but often the secretive nature of teens worries parents and fuels mistrust.
Surprisingly, with privacy being such a hot topic for teens, many fail to adequately understand how their privacy is violated when they log onto social media. Teens often heed little caution to strangers or third parties viewing their posts or personal information. It appears teens are more concerned with keeping their thoughts and actions private from the authority figures in their lives like parents and teachers.
Where Have All The Teens Gone?
Many experts believe teens are seeking other avenues for social media, because parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even their third-cousins are logging onto the social giant. Suddenly, a teen’s online world is visible to every living relative and they naturally desire their own space.
Teens are looking for authentic communication, peer feedback, and a place to express themselves without a fear of mom or dad judging. In an effort to avoid parental interference, many teens create fake profiles or dummy accounts to pacify adults and seek solace on different sites where their parents haven’t taken over. This explains why Facebook has dropped in popularity with teens and 71% of teens admit to using multiple social media sites.
Here is a look at eight popular social media apps our teens are using in an attempt to keep parental eyes off their posts:
- Instagram- This app shares photos and short 15 second videos to the public or followers. Teens use this site to gain likes on their photos and often use their Instagram interactions as a way to validate their popularity.
- Snapchat- This is a popular disappearing app where users put a “self destruct” time limit on the photos they send. The risk-free atmosphere may encourage sexting or cyberbullying. Parents need to be aware that there is no such thing as a disappearing app- anything online has the potential to be recovered.
- Vine- This app features short six-second clips of videos that users upload. These are often funny and creative, but it doesn’t keep inappropriate material off the site.
- YikYak- Is an app that connects users based on location within a radius of 1.5 miles. This app is known for cyberbullying, racy interactions, and questionable content that promotes gossip.
- Omegle- This social media site selects two random users to text or video chat. This anonymous site allows people to develop connections based on interests, but it exposes children to strangers, adult conversations, and predator threats.
- Twitter- Twitter relies on short, 140 character messages, that update instantly.
- Tumblr- This is the hybrid child of blogging and Twitter. Parents need to be aware that privacy is difficult, because it often requires a second profile to get a password-protected account.
- Kik Messenger- this allows kids to “text” without using his or her cell phone’s texting plan. Since this service is an app, there are no limits on messages, character counts, or hidden fees.
- 5 Ways Parents Can Promote Social Privacy
Allowing teens social privacy can be difficult when we live in a world full of dangers. Here are five suggestions to help teens safely navigate social media while promoting their privacy:
- Teach social media etiquette early and keep building on the conversation.
- If a child demonstrates responsible choices, gradually allow them more freedom.
- Follow the recommended age and guidelines when registering on social media sites.
- Be honest and let your teen know you may monitor their accounts and profiles. After all, anything they post has the potential to be seen by everyone. Avoid snooping or sneaking around.
- Help young teens adjust their privacy settings for all accounts.
For more information on ways teens are diversifying their social media usage, please read the following infographic:
Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.