Social Media, Tech, and Your Teen

Do you worry about what is reasonable social media use for your teen?

Are you feeling the pressure to allow your tween or teen son or daughter to use social media…in every variety?

Do you wonder about the risks and how to implement realistic boundaries?

Or do you think the hype about social media and the potential for harm is nothing but drama drummed up by paranoid parents?

Whether you’re trapped by fear or dismissing the risks of social media use, I want to equip you to make wise decisions when it comes to navigating social media and technology with your tweens and teens.

Social Media, Tech, and Your Teen

As a mom and mentor, I’ve seen the blessings and the destruction that comes with social media use. I’ve witnessed Facebook bullying spreading throughout a school, forcing it to become a “real-life” topic. I’ve watched girls crumble under the defaming words typed in less than 140 characters. I’ve seen teens fall deeper into insecurity because of the “likes-rating” and 20somethings working through regret over posting immodest pictures only a few years earlier.

While I’ve seen the bad, I’ve also noticed the good. I’ve watched quiet teens rally around a friend with words of encouragement during a medical crisis and have witnessed the positive impact of maintaining long distance friendships through Facebook connections. I’ve seen girls step-up their devotional commitment through Tweeting each other verses each morning, and others choosing to encourage one another with links to godly videos and posts.

[Tweet “Social media is not all bad. But it’s also not all good. The key is to know the difference.”]

Social media and technology offers blessings and risks for every user, regardless of age. The key is being in the know about what’s what and choosing to set healthy boundaries.  I hope and pray that the information provided below will help you feel confident about be proactive about your tween or teen’s use of social media and technology.

 

Be in the Know

Have you considered these facts and nuances when it comes to social media and technology use?

  • Age Limits
    Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter all require children to be at least 13 years old to join in adherence with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits companies from gathering personal information from children 13 and under.
  • Access to Apps
    You don’t need a phone to use iPhone Apps, since they can also be used on an iPod touch or an iPad and even other smartphones. You can see all the Apps available here, and learn how to use parental controls here and here.
  • Digital Footprints
    Anything shared online become a part of a person’s digital footprint and can be accessed both passively and actively.  For more on this topic, read here.
  • Cyber Bullying
    Bullying using social media and technology impacts teens in the same way hurtful words and aggressive behavior of peers hurts a student on the playground. However, it may even be worse because the cyber-playground is open to the whole world and can be accessed even when school is not in session. For more on how to notice cyber bullying and stop it, visit here.
  • Addiction Factor
    Social media and technology use is addictive. Just look at the response of a teen or adult who loses their tech — notice the anger and irritation! To learn more about the addictive nature, read this review of a Harvard Study and take a technology addiction test here.
  • Geotagging
    Did you know that every photo taken on a smart phone or posted to the internet may be tagged with a location if geotagging is not turned off?  That means anyone could find where your teen is hanging out, unless the proper blocks are in place. Learn more here.
  • Screen Captures
    Just because it’s your photo or your post, doesn’t mean it belongs to you. Anyone can screen capture anything on screen. Here’s how.
  • Sexting and Texting
    Sexting when a sexually explicit or provocative photo or message is sent via text or social media.

 

What's What?

So what exactly is considered social media and what can users do on each site or app?  Take note of the major players and risk factors below:

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Facebook

http://www.facebook.com

What to consider…

  • Facebook isn’t really private, even if you have to accept a friend.  Anything shared on Facebook is public to each person’s friends and can be visible to friends-of-friends and beyond if privacy settings are not put in place.
  • Any message, post, or photo can be grabbed, downloaded, or screen captured by anyone who is a friend or has access to that file.
  • You must “friend” someone in order to connect on Facebook, and your friend request must be accepted.
  • You can ignore or block friend requests.
  • Every like on Facebook is recorded on your wall.
  • People can write on your wall and tag you in photos or posts.
  • Learn about Facebook privacy settings and permissions here.

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Twitter

http://www.twitter.com

What to consider…

  • Users are limited to 140 characters for each post.
  • Unlike Facebook, anything posted in a Tweet is visible to the entire public, which also means bullying and gossip has no limits.
  • Pictures can be posted to Twitter.
  • Anyone can follow you and you can follow anyone.
  • Followers can be blocked.

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Pinterest

http://www.pinterest.com

What to consider…

  • Pinterest is like a virtual bulletin board, allowing users to “pin” pictures and links.
  • A pin is usually a picture from a particular site with a link to that site, however, users can upload their own pins without a link to a site.
  • Users follow each other, however, followers are not approved or accepted because it happens automatically.

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Instagram

http://instagram.com/

What to consider…

  • Instagram is all about photos — you can’t post without uploading a photo.
  • You can also include comments, tags, and hashtags on photos.
  • You can request to follow anyone, however, there are settings to block access followers and restrict access.
  • Understand Instagram privacy settings here.

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SnapChat

http://www.snapchat.com

What to consider…

  • Snapchat is a photo messaging app that can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings to send “snaps” to your friends.
  • Users set a time limit for how long recipients can view their Snaps (1 to 10 seconds), and then they will be hidden from their friend’s account and deleted from Snapchat’s servers. However, with screen capture and other “hacking” instructions found all over the web, snaps can escape deletion.
  • Snapchat is notorious for sexting because of the naive belief that the photo will just disappear.
  • You have to accept Snapchat friend requests and have to use privacy settings to limit who can see your chat, which you can learn more about here.

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Ask.fm

http://www.ask.fm

What to consider…

  • Ask.fm is an anonymous question and answer platform website that targets teens — just read the first paragraph of the about page here.
  • It allows anyone to post anonymous comments and questions to a person’s profile.
  • It is a HIGH risk set up for abusive, bullying and sexualized content.
  • Ask.fm is aware of parental concern, as noted here.

I agree with Ask.fm’s opinion that teens want to ask questions anonymously — that’s why ETC has been such an amazing and  successful endeavor. So how about offering your teens anonymity by hosting an ETC Mentoring Gathering in your living room and having them ask their questions on index cards instead of online with strangers?  Consider starting an ETC Mentoring Group with these resources.

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Kik

http://kik.com/

What to consider…

  • Kik is a messenger with a built-in browser, which means you can talk to your friends and browse/share any web site with your friends at the same time.
  • It’s a messenger that works without a phone number and instead requires a username.
  • Kik will connect you with other users and anyone can send you a message unless privacy settings are put in place. You can learn about those here.

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Tumbler

https://www.tumblr.com/

What to consider…

  • Tumbler is a bit like a blog, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest all wrapped up into one.
  • You can post text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos from your browser, phone, desktop, or email.
  • Tumbler accounts create a clear digital footprint and are by default public.  The site would have to be password activated in order to make it private.

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Flicker

http://www.flickr.com/

What to consider…

  • Flicker is a photo site created so that you could store and share your digital photos.
  • Each photo upload by default is public unless it is marked as private.
  • Photos can be download or screen captured.
  • Users can be followed and posts can be commented on.

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YouTube

http://www.youtube.com

What to consider…

  • YouTube.com offers videos uploaded by anyone and everyone, which means the content isn’t always clean.
  • Videos can be from professional music and movie companies, or pirated clips of films and music from the tech-savvy user.
  • Videos can be download or watched live.
  • They can also be commented on, unless the owner of the video has closed the comments.
  • YouTube.com is a popular site for teens to find porn as well as instructional videos on hacking technology.

Have we left out one you think should be included?  Send us an email (more at moretobe dot com) and we’ll add it to the list.

Consider the 6PsIf you’re a little bit apprehensive about social media use and your teen, you’re not alone.  There are risks worth measuring, but most can be faced without all the drama through keeping informed about each App’s purpose and each teen’s ability to manage in a healthy way.  Setting hard and fast rules can backfire, especially if there are no ways to implement boundaries and consequences. So instead consider following these  6Ps for making wise decisions and offering consistency in your approach:

1:  Purpose

What is the intent of the App or social media site?

2:  Potential

What are the risks involved, such as bullying, predators, digital footprint?

3: Privacy

What steps can be put in place to protect your privacy?

4:  Personality

What about your teen’s personality makes this particular app or social media a high risk endeavor for them?

5.  Pace

What is a reasonable pace at which to introduce each social media app and piece of technology into your teen’s life based on her/his maturity level and ability to manage it in healthy way?

6.  Privilege

Has your teen demonstrated responsible use of social media and technology in such a way that you can give her/him other privileges — beyond social media use — to reward their behavior?  Likewise, has their irresponsibility indicated that certain privileges — beyond the use of social media and technology — should be removed as an appropriate consequence?

Call me an idealist, but I believe it’s worth having an open and honest conversation with our teens about social media and technology. Rather than buckling to the pressure of “giving them all access” or running from the fear of the “devil’s toolbox,” wouldn’t it be worth using social media and tech as a way to train up our teens with responsible habits?

We’ve all heard the story of a teen who was forbidden to have a social media account, but went behind her mom’s back to set up a fake one. And we likely know a compliant teen who says “okay” to the “No way, no how!” decision her parents have made about social media, but is really angry and passive aggressive in other ways.  In both cases, the teens are frustrated and parents exasperated.  Is that really necessary?

We can — and should — share with them the risks involved, come up with an accountability plan together, and spend time dialoguing through using each app week to week.  Yes, that means it might get messy at times, but it can also be the fertile ground on which God reveals the seriousness of temptation, the desires of the flesh, and the beauty of forgiveness and redemption.

 If you’d like help on establishing parenting principles
based on grace and truth, consider our Grace Rules Guide.

grace_rules

More Resources for Parents

If you’d like more information on using social media and technology, consider these helpful websites:

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