Seriously People, Do you Forget?

They are teenagers.

I’d like to start with this:  I think teenagers are the best.  Truth be told I almost unilaterally like people but teenagers in particular.  They do the coolest things and they are pretty much just, not completely formed masses of potential. But then shit like this pops up my facebook (6 people posted this, 6 people I like a lot):

4 Apps Teens Love that Parents Need to Monitor

The basic premise is: There are four apps out there that teens are doing the worst things ever on. Things like bullying, sexting*, and asking anonymous questions.  For Shame!  Damn you cell phone! You are ruining the chiddlins!

Here’s the thing though, of course they are.  Of course they are bullying on their cell phones because they bully in real life.  Yes, I understand the internet creates a platform that allows bullying to happen in an easier non face-to-face way but teenagers bully.  It happens.  This is obviously not the answer parents want to hear.  Parents/ Adults want to hear that if they delete these four apps that your child will be perfect and no more bullying will happen ever.

And sexting**? Teenagers have sex!  Although less of them than in the past (this video is great go watch it now).  Teenagers also watch Game of Thrones, Girls, and pretty much anything that you watch because well, access. If you can get it off the internet so can they.

I can’t even talk about anonymous questions except to say, Seriously?  This scares you? Are you also afraid of feet?

Okay, so, now that I have ranted here’s the real piece of this.  A very small part of my job is educating teens on internet safety and digital footprint and from that I have some small pieces of advice that are based entirely around personal experience.

  • Education has to be developmentally appropriate.  Telling 8th graders that what they put on the internet will effect their chances of getting into college is dumb.  They don’t have context for that.  I also believe this is true for 10th graders, they don’t really understand consequences 2 years out. Heck, sometimes I don’t.  Talk to them about their friends.  Talk about what it feels like to read stuff about themselves.  Talk to them about vagueness and tone.  And the question I like the best, ask them if they read their own stuff if they’d want to be their friend.
  • This needs to happen outside the home, too.  Find out what your school is doing in terms of digital citizenship.  Ask if your school has anti-bullying rules and how they extend to the internet.  Ask if your school or district or local library has adult education on this. If you don’t feel like you know enough to talk to your kid about this then educate yourself. The easiest way to do that is to ask your kid. What apps do you use?  What the heck is snapchat?
  • Talk to your kid everyday.  Maybe we move beyond, “how was your day?”.  Maybe it’s time to start asking, “What’s happening on tumblr?” “Did you get funny snapchats today?” “Do you use that secret sharing app?” Yea, I think these questions sound awkward, too. Cause they are.  Cause we’re all just gonna have to get in to the place of awkward and be okay with it.

I was most frustrated by the article linked above because it plays on fear.  Fear that teenagers are doing all the terrible things we think they are and fear that we don’t understand them.   The best way to quell this fear is to talk to them.  As your mother probably said, “Use your words.”

Final note: This is written by someone who has no teen children and also has 324 teen children. So take from it what you will. Just remember the medium itself is not evil it’s all in how we use it.

*Can we just take a minute and appreciate that my spell check thinks sexting is a word.  I love the world.
** I really can’t get over that this is a word. 

3 thoughts on “Seriously People, Do you Forget?

  1. I was one of the people that posted this on Facebook. I did not do it for parents of teenagers, I did it for parents of pre-teens (and younger). I am the parent of two middle school children and teach middle school children. Most of the parents that I know aren’t even aware of these apps at all. Almost all of the children that I know are using these apps, some as young as 4th grade. I am always surprised by the number of 4th graders that have their own iPhone. Most parents of children this age haven’t even heard of any of these apps yet and aren’t aware that their 9, 10 and 11 year olds are using them. If parents don’t even know the apps exist, they can’t talk about them with their children. Of course deleting the apps won’t solve bullying or prevent sexting. But this is more than about just bullying. Deleting these apps off of an 11 year old’s phone can help prevent them from making bad choices “in private” until they are a little more mature. I personally know a 12 year old girl whose life was deeply affected by an inappropriate cell phone picture that was shared. You cannot take that back. The girl who committed suicide after being bullied on ask.fm was only 12 years old. You are supposed to be 17 years of age or older to even use most these apps. My personal choice as a parent is that I do not allow my 11 and 13 year old children to use snap-chat or Kik. And then I monitor their activity on the other social media apps that they use. But I only get to make that choice because I am aware of these apps. I agree that the article was over the top, but it does makes parents aware. The sad thing is that it needs to be over the top for many parents to even take notice. Parents of young children need to monitor their children’s online activity so they can talk with them and help them make good choices. Because now, everyone gets to see when they make a bad choice, and it never goes away. :(

  2. Hi there,
    I agree with your point about fear mongering and as a teacher involved in educating students to use online spaces, I often debate the balance between fear, information, appropriate use etc. I know that these tools have fantastic positive purposes! I love being connected to my friends and my colleagues.
    I do believe though there is a purpose in raising awareness about these tools amongst parents as many have their heads in the sand on this issue. My main issue with some of the sharing tools like Kik is that children are being exposed to age inappropriate material. Once upon a time, an older sibling would not share their activities with their younger brother, nowadays younger and younger students are getting a window into behaviors they once would have not been party to till they were much older.
    Our understanding of these tools is evolving, no generation has experienced it yet, so good discussions are important.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective

    Celia
    Melboure. Australia

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