NYMP Q&A: Teens and Social Media
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Do you think parents should use the threat of taking away their teen’s technology to deter them from certain behaviors?
The key is for parents to remember that the trust they have with their kids is an essential tool for navigating the most turbulent waters. I’ve seen parents use tech restriction as a punishment in ways that undermine that trust and result in teens engaging in even more problematic activities. For example, taking away your kid’s phone under the guise of trying to get her to focus on homework or hang out with the family more often doesn’t work. Social media is a teen’s lifeline, and she’ll just end up sneaking around a parental restriction to get access—and ultimately distrust your judgment. Furthermore, these teens are more likely to engage in risky behaviors online because their parents aren’t engaging them holistically; rather, they’re just trying to address the challenges by banning tech entirely.
How do the challenges of technology impact a teen’s already crazed life?
Kids are still expected to succeed, and tech can exacerbate this pressure. How they go about achieving is made much more visible than it’s ever been before. Kids also have bigger demands on their time with technology—everything is seen or reported instantly! And because they are always connected, teens feel pressure as to the kind of person they are, or should be, with their peers.
How can parents limit the amount of personal information that their teens make public?
This is a conversation that needs to have happened well before high school. Parents need to talk about what teens are facing with their peers and how to cope with the desire to over-share. For example, are they sharing personal details to connect with friends, or do they feel pressured to do so? Are they sharing to hang out or to seem cool? Kids tend to understand the meaning of privacy in terms of their parents, not corporations or the government. So instead of limiting access to their content or personal information, they make the meaning cryptic so mom and dad won’t understand what they are posting.
How can parents allow their teens some privacy online, yet also protect and monitor them?
As kids grow into their teenage years, they yearn for more independence and space. The key to this time period is to focus on building a strong sense of mutual respect. I always recommend that parents switch from trying to spy on everything their child does to asking more questions and getting a sense of what their child is thinking and how she’s making decisions.
Read the latest advice and advocacy issues about Internet safety and privacy relating specifically to teens at commonsensemedia.org.
Jennifer Kelly Geddes is a mom of two girls and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Parenting, Scholastic Parent & Child, and EverydayHealth.com. She lives with her family in West Harlem.