I’m not a parent yet, but being a middle school teacher supplies me unique insight into what’s trending particularly with young teens. You wouldn’t believe the things I see and hear in my classroom as the students interact with their peers. Students today face an immense amount of pressure to stay connected with their friends than ever before. While social media adds its benefits to life, put in irresponsible and immature hands can prove detrimental to a student’s emotional growth at the very least.
So, what are the top social network sites for teens? To understand where teens like to spend their virtual time nowadays, just watch them on their smartphones. Facebook is becoming irrelevant. Just the other day I took a spontaneous poll in class to discover which social media channel was used most by my 8th grade students. Here are the results:
- Vine (60% of students) – A six second video app that allows users to share the video on other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
- Instagram (97% of students) – This app allows users to take pictures, apply digital filters and share them on a variety of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
- Snapchat (90% of students) – An app where users can take photos or record videos and send them to a select list of recipients. Users then set a time limit for how long recipients can view their photos (no longer than 10 seconds) after which the photo or video will be deleted from the recipient’s device and the company’s servers.
- Texting (100% of students) – If you aren’t aware of what this is get out from under your rock!
So what’s the big deal?
The point isn’t just that times change… we all know that. Rather, it is crucial that parents are aware their children are facing more pressure to “fit in” now than you or I ever did simply because more of day to day life is being documented. Teens are evermore conscious of what they are or aren’t missing out on… adding a whole new spin to cyber-bullying. Aside from this point, teens possess a natural privy to what is trending and what isn’t. This makes it even more difficult for parents to protect their children from the dangers that can occur with the use social media. Teens are discovering, using and potentially abusing these new forms of communications long before parents and myself are even made aware of what they are. I mention this not to scare parents or discourage teens from using these kind of apps. Instead, I hope this post is educational for parents and inspires responsible use for young people.
What’s a Parent to do?
It is not enough to monitor your child’s Facebook or Twitter activity. There are countless other avenues in which teens can find themselves victims of cyber-bullying. For example, as explained above, the app Snapchat allows photos and videos to be sent and then automatically deleted. This is the opposite of Facebook: simple, seemingly secret, and fun. It doesn’t take the imagination very long to think up numerous ways a teenager could abuse an app like this. Parents, you need to immerse yourselves in their culture and discover what it is that your teens are truly using in terms of social media. Along with that, you need to educate your children on how to responsibly use these things. Below I’ve listed a few good resources to help you stay up to date and get the conversation with your teens started. Any other tips to share? Write us a comment below.
- Parent’s Try to Keep Up with Rules of Tech via Mashable.com
- CatholicMom.com’s Tech Talk Section
- The Online Mom