If you have a teenager there is a good chance that he spends time on a social networking site. In fact, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, over 60 percent of 13-17 have an account on a social networking website like Facebook. Social networking is how we interact these days. It’s only natural that our kids would want to express themselves, share their photos and experiences, and interact on social network with their family and peers like we do. As parents, we want our kids to have positive experiences, but we also want to keep them safe. Social networking has many risks including inappropriate sharing of content or photos, vulnerability to online predators, cyberbullying, overuse, and identity fraud. Here are some facts you should know as a parent about kids and social media.
41% of kids use the internet in their bedroom and 35% of kids have their cell phones, according to NetNanny. 44% of teens have admitted to viewing content their parents would not approve of, according to GuardChild. This means that many kids are using the internet and social networks completely unsupervised.
Predators and sexual solicitation
17% of teens have been contacted by a someone they didn’t know who made them feel uncomfortable, according to a report from Pew Research Center. In addition, 1 in 5 teens report that they have received unwanted sexual solicitation via the internet.
According to GuardChild, teens make up the largest viewers of pornography on the internet. Kids are naturally curious about sex, and the internet provides easy access to pornography. While sexual curiousity is a natural aspect of puberty, pornagraphy at this stage in brain development can lead to unhealthy relationships, unrealistic expectations, and sexual deviancy.
According to Socialstragi.com, 56% of teens use Facebook. 43% use SnapChat, 27% use Twitter, and Instagram is now the most popular social network for teens. Some reasons teens prefer Instagram is because there is less interactions between “friends”. Instead of having discussions, they can just see what they are up to through pictures and following their friends’ feeds. In addition, parents are more likely to be on Facebook and not on Instagram.
Permanency and Privacy
When something is posted on a social network, it essentially leaves a permanent footprint that will follow your teen even if it is deleted. Screenshots can be made within seconds, capturing any information that is posted. Also, most websites don’t actually permanently remove posts. They are stored somewhere on their server or database.
According to the Pew Research study, 91% of teens post photos of themselves, 75% post school names, 53 percent post their email address, and 20% post their cell number online. This is a lot of personal information that is readily available to predators and peers. This permanency makes teens vulnerable. For example, gossip won’t just get swept away and forgotten. There may be a permanent record that follows your teen on the internet. Furthermore, having personal information so readily available makes teens at risk for identity fraud.
We’ve heard the stories in the news about teens becoming depressed or even attempting suicide due to cyberbullying. According to DoSomething.org, 43% of kids have been bullied online. 70% of teens report seeing bullying online, while 90% admit to ignoring this bullying. Only 1 in 10 kids talk to an adult about being the victim of cyberbullying. This means that if your child is being bullied online, you may not even know about it.
Keep Your Kids Safe
While there are many concerns, if parents help guide and monitor their kids’ activity on social media it can be a positive experience. Setting time limits, having access to your child’s accounts, and monitoring what they are doing online will give you peace of mind and help keep your child safe. There are a number of parental control and internet monitoring websites or software that parents can use that will limit activity, block your child from unsafe content, or inform you of what they are doing online. Keep your kids safe online by knowing the facts and monitoring their activity.