This last blog post is going to be about a topic that is oh-so-familiar: social media. This is not my post about cyberbullying-that is a different topic that I will definitely blog about at a later time. This post is about social media in general. I wish I could say that this post is just for parents of teens, but it's not. I have seen children as young as 9 and 10 with Facebook accounts. So if your child is in mid-elementary school, check this article out. Even if you are absolutely positive that your child does not have a social media account at home, you never know what he or she is accessing at school and other places. Many sites are blocked at schools, but with social media moving at a such a fast clip, it is hard to keep up and some slip through. The following article lists a few less well-known sites that you may want to be aware of. Even though I have worked in high schools, I have not heard of all of these, but I do know of some and will make some comments.
First up is Snapchat. Snapchat sounds like a great and harmless concept. Take a picture and then it 'disappears' after only a short time. Except it doesn't disappear. For those of you with teenagers, you know that the adolescent brain is not really good at anticipating consequences. The hallmark of adolescence is taking risks and Snapchat can definitely be risky. Unfortunately, I have heard of several incidences of kids taking inappropriate pictures and sending them to friends, believing that they are gone forever. But they are not. Never trust that pictures taken on a digital camera (pretty much all cell phones) are gone forever! Those pictures could potentially resurface at a much later time. Additionally, I am not a fan of most types of social media with an age minimum of 12 (I'm looking at you Pheed).
Next is Vine. Vine is a site with videos that are no longer than 6 seconds. Kind of like an abbreviated YouTube. You may think that nothing damaging could possibly happen in 6 seconds, right? Well, I am not so sure about that. It has the potential to cause damage-just like Snapchat. However, I have to say that I have not directly heard about any major issues happening with Vine. In my experience, kids frequently use this app appropriately: to laugh at something that only they understand and their parents do not think is funny at all.
The last one is called Ask.fm. This one is not in the article, but I feel the need to mention it anyway. I heard about this website when working in a high school and frankly it seems downright dangerous to me. Much of what is put on there is done anonymously. I have heard numerous incidents of kids getting bullied on it while the bullies hide behind anonymity. I understand that there is some way to disable the anonymous feature, but I am not sure what the purpose of the site would then be. If your child is on Ask.fm, I would highly recommend monitoring their page. It can spiral into vicious bullying very quickly.
I am not necessarily banning the use of social media. Most teenagers that I have come across use social media very appropriately, even productively. It can be a great tool for multiple things. Family Psychological Services has a Twitter (@fpschDrSweeney) and a Facebook site (just type in my business name and like!), so it would be hypocritical of me to say that preteens and adolescents should never use social media. Unfortunately, I think that would also be really hard to enforce. Apps can be accessed from most cell phones and computers. Some can even be accessed through video games. The purpose of this post is to give you a little more information about what these forms of social media are and decide what you think is appropriate for your child and family. Take a little time to think about what the limits of social media should be for your kids. How do you want to monitor their online behavior? The article mentions parental controls, which is really a GREAT idea. You cannot always be around to see what your child is doing on their phone or computer. The ability to monitor remotely is a very practical solution. In addition to that, I would advocate talking to your child or adolescent about your social media expectations and then checking in weekly about what they are witnessing and participating in online. Allow them to share the funny stuff, the silly stuff, the moving stuff, and the sad stuff. If you show interest they will be more likely to come to you when something scary or illegal is going on. This is true for most things with adolescents. Maybe that is another blog post for another day.
That's it for the series! Thanks for checking them out. I will continue to post sporadically, but will spread the word if and when I plan to do another series. Keep checking back every so often to see if there are some new posts. And feel free to share with others! Even though I am DC-based I try to keep the posts applicable to all families throughout the country. Also, please let me know your feedback. Did you like the posts? Were they helpful? Which ones did you like best? Least? Any and all comments are welcome. I want to continue to make this better so that it is helpful. Of course, if you find that you are in need of psychological support for you or your family, please contact me.
Keep checking back for more and have a great school year!!!!