Dear Well Meaning (But Ignorant) Parents: This is what your teens are really doing on the Internet

This article from a young high school teacher is a jaw-dropping must-read for all parents of kids who have access to social media. If you are interested in specific trends and even more specific apps that are all around our kids, this article is for you. We would all do well to absorb her inside information, heed her warnings and answer her call to action

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What Our Experts Are Saying

Insights and recommendations from the doctors and subject matter experts in the Modern Parent Project community!

What to Do?

Our recommendations for Modern Parents

Should I be doing more?

Probably. The fact is social media usage by most kids far surpasses what their parents believe it is – or should be. It would be difficult to be too proactive in this area. Trust but verify.

What should I be doing?

Follow our Guide to Social Media Safety.

What if my child pushes back?

Don’t cave! Push back comes with the territory whenever you are proactively monitoring or restricting your child’s social media usage. Be sensitive to their frustration, but be clear on your terms for allowing them to use any Social Media app.
Dr. Bill Bercaw

Co-Founder, The California Center for Healing

What NOT to do?

Our recommendations for Modern Parents

Should I just say No Social Media?

That’s not necessary. Your child would be completely isolated from their peers if they had no social media access. Instead, effective modern parenting involves moderation and compromise. And it always involves access to your child’s social media platform.

What if my child pushes back?

Don’t cave! Push back comes with the territory whenever you are proactively monitoring or restricting your child’s social media usage. Be sensitive to their frustration, but be clear on your terms for allowing them to use any Social Media app.

But my kid would never...?

You may be right. But there’s no way to know for sure, especially in a social media culture of anonymity and detachment from reality. Don’t join the growing list of parents who thought their child never would… only to find that same child suffering the consequences of having done it.
Dr. Bill Bercaw

Co-Founder, The California Center for Healing

Dear Well-Meaning (But Ignorant) Parents:

This is what your teens are really doing on the Internet

A young high school teacher shares insider information about our kids’ social media habits.

BY  (article)

I’ve been mulling over this topic for quite some time, but this morning it became increasingly clear to me that I must say something. Folks, stranger danger is a real thing. And even more real today than it was ten years ago thanks to, you guessed it, the internet.

I speak specifically to the parents of kids old enough to be on social medias. Of course, I am no such parent, but I am a teacher of those kids. I am also only 6-10 years older than the high school students I teach. Maybe that makes me unqualified to speak out, but maybe it makes me the most qualified candidate. Many of my colleagues and the parents of my students are old enough to be my own parents, so I tend to share a camaraderie with my students. And yet, I am far enough removed to be able to speak in ways that they cannot yet speak for themselves.

The reason this subject has become suddenly so urgent to me is because today I read an article about a new website called YouNow which is essentially a live stream site that a person can set up a camera feed and you can watch it constantly. Users can connect with cameras using hashtags like #sleepingsoundly. In other words, people – teenagers – are setting up cameras in their bedrooms so anyone, any stranger, can watch them sleep… or whatever. And while the stream is happening, there is a constant commentary by all watchers. I watched one today (for about ten seconds because I felt totally creepy) of a teenager somewhere singing on his porch. The comments ranged anywhere from “you have a great voice you should date me” to much more obscene things like calling the boy a “fag” and telling him he looked like various parts of genitalia. Now yes, this website is not specifically marketed for teens, and yes, there are terms of use that technically prohibit obscenity and illegal acts. But if you know anything about teenagers you know that they quickly find loopholes to most rules. The internet, especially social media, is NOT safe. And it is sobering how real this is.

Which Apps Are Safe For Your Kids?

You may be thinking “I’m smarter than that. I have a facebook and I watch my kids online.” You might have a Facebook. So do I. And so does my mom and my grandma and all of her friends. But you know who doesn’t have a Facebook? Your kid’s friends. I took an informal poll of my 150 students at the beginning of the year, and 60-80% of my students don’t even have a facebook. They connect with each other onKik, an app that allows users to text each other without exchanging phone numbers. They use Snapchat, an app that allows users to send pictures that supposedly disappear forever after ten seconds. They use Whisper, an app that a user can “anonymously” tell their deepest secrets to a vast community of other secret sharers. They use Yik Yak, Vine, Tumblr, Twitter (do you know about subtweeting? you should.), Instagram, Oovoo, WhatsApp, Meerkat, and sometimes even dating apps, like Tinder.

The problem with thinking you’re smart is that I would almost guarantee that there is at least one of those apps you’ve never heard of. And if you aren’t on it, your kids probably will be.

Teenagers typically do not yet understand the importance of internet safety. Along with the age-old feeling of invulnerability that adolescence has always carried, now there is an unprecedented and intimate access to a worldwide community of strangers. So instead of driving too fast or sneaking out at night, your kids might be posting naked pictures on a website you’ve never heard of to people they’ve never met.

I know, I know. Your child would never do that! Let me tell you something:You. Don’t. Know. That. You know those tiny feelings you get every day but you cope nicely because you’re an adult? Feelings like insecurity, boredom, even the loneliness of being at home when your friends are all going out – well these feelings are massive to teenagers. A combination of hormones and inexperience create a veritable powder keg of unpredictable behavior. Insecurity might lead to seeking acceptance from strangers by posting a selfie and waiting for people to reblog, like, or comment on it. Boredom might lead to extended conversations online with someone they’ve never met about deeply personal matters. Loneliness can lead to online sex. No, really. It can.

Please please hear me, parents. I am not an outdated, irrelevant old person sitting on my metaphorical front lawn griping about “kids these days”. I spend more time with teenagers than I do with people my own age. And in many cases, I spend more time with your teenagers than even you do. I am begging you to give a crap about your kids.  When I was a teenager myself, social media was just gaining popularity and my mom had my Myspace and Facebook password. I never sent a message, posted a picture, or added a friend without her knowing it. It sounds extreme, but I’m safe today because of it. I can’t even count the many times I would have done something incredibly unsafe and irresponsible if not for the fact that I knew my mom was watching.

My success as an adult today can be blamed almost wholly on the fact that my parents were involved in my life. I could go on forever about the rising rate of teen suicides, sexual miscreants, and drug abuse problems that can be traced back to beginnings in social media. These things are real. And if you don’t show up in your kid’s life and give a crap, maybe no one will.

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