Parents, teachers, coaches, youth workers and employers are all attempting to figure out the “new normal” that kids experience in a world of “pings” and “rings” from their phone. It seems we are all still attempting to civilize this portable device. Let’s dig into it.
Should We Monitor Kids’ Use of Social Media?
Parents differ on their opinions about whether to check what their kids are doing on social media sites. Some believe their children deserve privacy and shouldn’t worry about Mom or Dad checking on them. I differ, only because I’ve witnessed too many case studies of kids not being fully aware of the dangers of predators, mental health issues and even cyber-bullies who hide behind a screen to wreak havoc on peers. What’s more, teens receive propositions from adults with wrong intentions and from others who engage in sexting. The teens in our focus groups told us boldly, “My parents have no idea what my life is like at night and what I do on social media.” This suggests to me that they’re up to something their parents may not support. Statistics reveal that 70% of teens admit to hiding on-line activities from their parents. As long as they are minors, I believe it’s wise for parents or guardians to check their social media posts. Remember, we are still civilizing this device that’s taken over a typical adolescent’s day; we continue to learn from research what it’s doing to re-wire our brains and foster poor habits. Just like an engaged parent would watch for unhealthy habits in their teens regarding alcohol, smoking, or sexual activity, I believe becoming a victim of social media sites has proven to be equally dangerous.
Consider this. Generation Z (kids who’ve grown up in the 21st century) is unique in that they have been on-line since birth—90% of them were on a tablet or a phone as preschoolers. Most of them have spotted the benefits of social media—connection with friends, entertainment during times of boredom and the discovery of all sorts of interesting activities going on everywhere. What they may not see is the downside of constant connection, which includes anxiety, depression, cyber-bullying and predators lurking in cyber-space—seeking to prey on unsuspecting victims. It’s perplexing that parents disregard the impact of social media on their kids. Most parents would not send their child out into a crime-infested urban neighborhood alone and in the dark, but they seem to be ignorant of the dangers of strolling through the cyber-neighborhoods of social media.
For some children, their initiation into social media is arriving way too early. It’s believed that at least 7.5 million users in the US are under the age of 13, despite having to be aged 13 or over to hold an account.
I am not suggesting we become paranoid. I am suggesting we become aware. If they ask how long you plan to monitor their activities on social media, perhaps it will make sense if you respond saying: “As long as you live under my roof and enjoy the provisions I offer you like food, heat and air, clothes and a smart phone.”
Here Are Some Ideas on How to Monitor Social Media
So, here are some apps you can explore to monitor your teen’s activity on a phone:
This allows you to set phone time limits and filter web content coming in.
This allows you to track your child’s calls, texts, GPS and social media activity.
This enables you to view your child’s website browsing and set time limits.
This enables you to do all of the above, but it is available for fewer devices.
This allows you to limit phone Internet use during family meals.
This allows you to track and set a phone curfew where phones shut down.
There are actually several other apps that empower a parent to know what’s happening on their child’s phone. While they are minors, I think you should know.
One other idea might be for parents to encourage their children to use privacy settings to insure their posts are going out to a select set of friends.
In any case, I believe we will soon discover that monitoring social media for kids is as healthy as monitoring their diet, their TV watching or their friends. The fact that anyone can create a social media site to accumulate users and make money, verifies they have no responsibility to maintain the mental health of their users. That’s up to us.
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