Today, teens can be found holding a smartphone or other online device just about everywhere including in the classroom. Even there, you may find that a teen in 2018 is so comfortable with integrating mobile technology into their lives that they are even managing social media profiles on sites like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter, just to name some. They may post a picture on Twitter at lunch with their smartphone, or take a video of a puppy and post it to Snapchat to share with a friend across town. There are many benefits teenagers can gain by developing friendships and communities on social media websites. However, it can be a challenge for parents to understand what’s going on inside the online world of their teen.
Here are just 10 tips to understanding your teen’s online social media presence:
1. Where Are They?
According to a recent National survey of American teens the most popular social media websites include Snapchat and Instagram. Findings of the survey indicated that over 75% of American teenagers have an Instagram page. 66% of teens said they had a Facebook page, while only 47% had a Twitter page. Fewer than that could be found on other sites so it’s easy to see where your teen probably spends their time when they are online with social media. Locating them is a great way to understand who else is in their social media circle so you can start taking steps to protect them from predators unique to each website.
2. Consider Self-Esteem
Teenagers are going through a lot of changes no matter what age they are. And by just being a teen there should be some kind of a “pass,” for making mistakes. “As a species we are very highly attuned to reading social cues,” says Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair. For this reason teenagers are especially vulnerable to a loss of self-esteem by simply trolling through their peer’s social media pages. It is common for adults to share the same loss of self-esteem as it is natural for people to compare their lives to someone else’s. However, for young people with developing minds, growing social lives and volatile emotions managing a social media presence can be downright harmful to their self-concept.
3. Remember the Bullies
For teens, it can be especially difficult to absorb insults and if the bully runs away and hides behind a screen, the tension can build up making the emotional impact of the abuse even more painful. You may notice some of these signs that your teen is being bullied:
- Lack of desire to go to school
- Emotionally withdrawn
- Changes in demeanor
- Strange behavior like not eating at dinner
- Misplacing items for school
- Spending large amounts of time online
- Differences in friends or relationships at school
- Making changes in their schedule (avoidance)
If you notice any of these behaviors in your teen it could be a sign that there is a bully in their life. This could be happening at school, online in social media circles or both.
4. Make an Inventory
There is a laundry list of potential dangers for teens who maintain a social media presence. It is vital that you take stock of just how many things your teen could be facing every time they turn on their smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. Here are just a few things the other kids might be doing: causing drama, cyber bullying, over sharing, shaming, creating jealousy and more.
5. Build Up Their Happiness
When you are living in the world of online social media you must know one thing: images are everything. Which means that 1) your teen is forced to see loads of images from their peers which may make them lose self-esteem if they feel their social media images aren’t as exciting. 2) If your teenager doesn’t get many “likes,” or shares of their images they may be shamed or called names because of it.
Understand that your teen wants a happy life, fun hobbies and things they can brag about. Who doesn’t? You can help boost the number of “likes” they get online by offering to take pictures when you do fun, exciting things like going out for pizza or miniature golf together. Remember, that being a happy teen is the best defense against any bully or harmful message they hear online. So plan something super-fun that they can take plenty of selfies to share on social media.
6. Get Involved!
One of the best ways to understand what your teen is going through on their social media websites like Instagram or Snapchat is by getting into their world. You may choose to get your own social media profile on a different website for example if your child is on Instagram, you may want to get a Snapchat profile established so that you don’t make them feel like you are infringing on their space. Regardless of the site you choose you can learn a lot by developing your own presence and inviting your teen to share in the experience. This way, they may be able to share bits and pieces of their online world in return.
7. Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Can you imagine if you had to take on the task of an adult at the age of 15 or 16 years old? What about a 13-year old working a full-time job at a marketing firm? Well, there are people who manage social media webpages for a living. And they have bachelor’s degrees – in behavioral science! Just think about that for a few minutes and then you’ll better understand that your teen may suffer with anxiety, stress or even worse a loss of sleep just managing their webpage.
8. Is That Appropriate?
It is important to know that one of the most popular social media apps online today is Snapchat. This specific application allows for the user to instantly send image messages to “chat” with their friends with their smartphone or tablet. However, each “snap” is automatically deleted within seconds. This creates an ideal environment for sending naughty pictures, without anyone knowing. Is that appropriate for your teen? It’s up to you.
9. Talk About It
If your teen is going through any type of problem in their life, you want to know about it. But when they are struggling in areas that you do not fully understand it can be challenging to get to the root of the problem. However, if you take the first steps to start a conversation about their social media presence, you are more likely to get the type of response that can help them if they are having problems online. Discuss their favorite profile picture. Or how many “likes” they gave someone else’s. This can help to show them that you understand the world they live in and that it happens online.
10. There is a REAL Danger
Because social media is so popular especially among teens, parents may not realize just how dangerous it can be. Consider taking a class either online or in your community on the dangers of social media. There are many settings you can learn to use in order to reduce the risks your teens face online. These include the locator, image viewing protection, profile visibility and other factors that make it easier for you to protect them from walking directly into harms way.
Social media is here to stay. Today, more and more people are getting online and sharing their location, pictures and real-time travel data. It is important to know what’s happening so that you don’t lose track of any challenges your teen could be facing online. Follow these 10 tips to understanding your teen’s online world of social media and remember that the best remedy for a problem on the computer is powering off.
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