As a teenager, I did it all. I was probably the worst teenager on the planet. So when my girls became teenagers, I thought for sure that I had it covered. I’m aware of the many schemes that teenagers come up with, such as “staying the night at a friend’s house.” We all know that means they’re at a party that likely involves alcohol and plenty of peer pressure. Despite what I knew, I discovered how arrogant I was to think that I knew every trick in the book. Especially the new tricks involving social media.
These two little words have not only changed our lives, but also the way our children operate. When I was in high school, our version of social media was a chatline that we could call and have group conversations with other kids under anonymous names. I got my first cell phone in 1998 when I was 16, and even then we didn’t use the text feature. I racked up a $700 phone bill because I did not understand how cell phone rates worked (sorry mom). Social media is everywhere now, and whether we like it or not, it’s here to stay!
I am guilty of giving my children cell phones too early.
My children received their cell phones at 11 and 12 years of age, to be precise. In my defense, my children were “latch key” kids, and we didn’t (and still don’t) have a landline. While the phones do serve their purpose, they definitely come with strings attached.
These “strings” have caused me to learn a lot about social media sites and apps in the past few years, which I’ve compiled below.
My children don’t have Facebook, so I don’t have firsthand experience with my teens using this app. What I do know is that Facebook is not that popular among teens anymore. It has grown to be more for adults who want to connect, share their privately-owned businesses, connect in private sales groups, or just meet like-minded people.
The more followers you have, the more clout you have. The more “likes” you get on a photo, the better. I know some teens who have over 1,000 people following them. Who are these people? I have teenage daughters, so all I see all day is them and their friends taking selfies for “the ‘gram”. Instagram is similar to Facebook in the sense that you can post to a News Feed, which everyone on your friends list can see. The difference is that only pictures or short videos can be posted to your feed. Instagram also has a feature similar to Facebook Messenger, in which you can DM (direct message) someone privately. Have you ever heard the song “It Goes Down in the DM”? That’s what they’re talking about.
Parents beware, though – most teenagers have private accounts separate from their mainstream account. The reason? To hide stuff from their family and adults, or to let friends they personally know “follow” them. Usually the username for their private account has .privvv in it. Both of my girls have private accounts, which I follow.
For teenagers, Snapchat is life. What’s so appealing about this app is that messages can disappear after 24 hours, but they can also be saved. Additionally, you can pick and choose who sees what you post. For example, you can post something to your News Feed or “Story”, or you can choose to send it to a few people. Due to the selective nature of this app, there is no need for a private account.
The big craze is to have streaks, which is where you get the highest number of days snapping each other back and forth. My oldest and her best friend currently have a 260-day streak. It’s also considered an insult if you leave someone on “read,” which means that you’ve seen their message but you didn’t respond. Because of these aspects, I have seen so many conflicts arise from this app. So be mindful of how petty many teenagers can be over the Snapchat drama.
This app is the devil. Sarahah is the Arabic word for honesty. The app links to Snapchat and it allows people to make anonymous comments about someone else. While it was meant for people to leave compliments about someone or honest feedback for a company, many teenagers choose to use it maliciously. I’ve seen some compliments, but I’ve mostly seen really inappropriate and mean comments.
Here are some tips I’ve discovered to help me navigate this new era of technology and social media.
- Have a co-parenting relationship with your childrens’ friends’ parents. I am talking about a friendship where you as parents look out for each other’s children, even if this means that you are “snitching” on them. Maybe that parent saw something your child posted that you missed, or maybe they heard about something they posted. At the end of the day, our children’s safety and sanity is all that matters.
- Be on every social media outlet that your child is on. I have heard many parents say, “Oh, I don’t do social media.” The only way you can monitor your child is if you are on the same social media outlets as they are. It will allow you to keep an eye on them, as well as become familiar with the apps themselves.
- Be aware of what your children’s friends are posting. Chances are that your children are posting similar things to what their friends post. I don’t care how innocent you think your child is. They may not be that innocent on social media.
- Every social media outlet allows strangers to contact your children. Communicate with them about the dangers out there, and teach them the things that people say to lure children to dangerous places.
- There are fake calculator apps used to store secret information. If you are the type of parent that does phone checks, and there are two calculator apps on your child’s phone, chances are that one of those is a fake calculator app being used to store secret things. #yourewelcome
I know all too well that this can be overwhelming, but I hope these tips can help you just as they have helped me.