For better or worse, social media is going to have a major influence over how our teens communicate with friends and even teachers and future employers. Social media is still relatively new and many parents with children approaching teenager-dom did not grow up with tweets, Facebook statuses, Vines, Instagram and snap chats. Understanding and teaching our children about properly using social media is as essential as teaching your children not to take candy from a stranger.
Teens and social media
Stranger Danger: Your teenager probably knows that getting into the car with someone they do not know is dangerous. However, talking to another “teenager” online may not seems very dangerous. Unfortunately, it is stupidly easy for predators to create fake profiles and lure teenagers into dangerous situations or even defraud teenagers out of money or other personal information. In 2013, “gaming friends” of a 13-year old boy kidnapped him and took him to Pakistan. Police returned him to his family safely, but not all stories end well. A 33-year old man, posing as a teenager, kidnapped, raped and murdered 17-year old Ashleigh Hall after posing as a teenage boy on Facebook. Teach your teens to keep their profile information private and only accept friend invitations from people they actually know.
Social Media Impacts Future: There are numerous stories of employees fired after using social media to vent about their boss or business. One server lost her job after posting a nasty post about a lousy tipper on her Facebook page. Posting nasty tweets about teachers can land a student in detention or even suspended if the posts are serious enough. Employers had admitted to looking at social media pages before hiring an employee. According to an article in Forbes, employers are encouraged to check out Facebook pages to weed out candidates with potential drug and alcohol problems and to check for other red flags. Your teens should think twice about posting bikini-clad photos and overly nasty Facebook posts to avoid losing credibility with employers and even colleges.
Cyber-bullying: I often refer to my junior-high years as the worst years of my life because of the merciless bullying I experienced. As bad as the bullying was, I feel terrible for teenagers who have to deal with the bullies in this tech-heavy age. I had some reprieve when the last bell rang and I went to the safety and comfort of my own home. Between text messages and social media, bullies can now access their victims anywhere at any time. Cyber-bullying is a big problem and it can affect a child’s ability to perform well in school. Teach your kids to be nice on Facebook (and everywhere else too!). A mean comment that may seem funny now might not seem so funny in a few years when college scouts see the nasty comments, and it is certainly not funny to the individual on the receiving end. Monitor your child’s social media activities and encourage them to talk to you or another adult if they see or experience cyber-bullying.
Social media is not going anywhere, but learning how to use these powerful tools properly can give your teen a big advantage as they complete high school and start applying for colleges and jobs. Teaching your teenagers responsible use of social media will keep them safe and prepare them for a better future.