Let me preface this blog by saying that I LOVE social media – when used correctly. There are tons of people that use it properly. Those people are modeling correct Digital Citizenship for children and adults all over, and for that I am thankful. Here is a conversation that I had to have with my 11-year-old son a few weeks ago. Maverick is a really good kid, and he hangs out with really good kids. But I am no fool. Pictures get taken, posted, skewed, and I am going to try and protect him from that as long as possible. The other day he asked me if he could get an Instagram account. Although I totally trust Maverick, and I feel that most of the pictures would be of Megatron, I had to tell him no. My number one reason is because I am not going to lie about his age. Instagram asks that you be 13 before you have an account. Maverick is not. I am not going to lie and say that he is 13, and I am not going to let him lie and say he is older. I told him this, and he totally understood. I also do not trust what other people are posting. He would potentially see things that an 11-year-old child does not need to be exposed to. You know that infamous hashtag? You never know where it is going to take you. I don’t want Maverick to type in something innocent that takes him to something- not innocent. This was an important conversation and moment for us as we were able to target Digital Citizenship, good morals and ethics, and Frank and I were able to give Maverick reasons that he wasn’t quite ready to navigate through social media. Although I am teaching Maverick daily about his Digital Footprint, as his mother I know that he cannot quite grasp how detrimental one wrong post or picture could be to his future. Instagram gets that, or they would not have made the age 13. As he grows and matures he will be put in situations where he has to make small decisions that could make a big impact. He will start to see how one wrong choice, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal at the time, can change everything. These are conversations that we all need to be having with our children and our students. Internet sites like Google take snapshots of everything that you post. So, delete it all you want…but Google has it forever. Maybe it doesn’t seem like a big deal if Maverick posted something about a certain college “stinking”, but that one small post at age 11 could come back to haunt him later on in life. Let’s say he decides to go to that college and ends up in a competitive situation for a spot. The college WILL do a search of Maverick, and no matter how many years ago he posted that one little sentence, it WILL show up. Why would a college want someone talking bad about their school when they could choose a child that is saying positive things about their college? The same goes for students posting pictures of partying and other activities that maybe shouldn’t be publicized so freely. Extreme? I don’t think so. Why would a place of employment or a university want someone that is perceived as a partier when they could choose the person that looks like they will take things more seriously? People, the media – anyone can take a picture/situation and totally change the meaning of what was really happening. It is my job to teach my kids to be really careful when people are taking pictures, when people are “tagging” you in pictures, and when people are recording you. I love social media. I love being able to connect with people from all over and truly learn from them. It is my duty to model how to safely and successfully use social media for my kids and my students. Adults, they are watching us. They are looking to us for guidance. I challenge you to research the different apps that teenagers are using right now so that you will know what your child is involved in virtually. I challenge you to model how to properly use social media, and I challenge you to talk to your kids about this. We didn’t have to deal with this when we were children (thank goodness), but they do. If we don’t guide them then who will? Check out the following tips and apps that are circulating right now. Just remember, they are changing daily.
My number one tip to help your child when it comes to social media is to be proactive. Talk to them daily. Model the correct way to use these resources. And NEVER post anything that you would not want them to see. Show them how great social media can be when used correctly.
Here are the steps that a parent can take to prevent their children from downloading apps that are age restricted – or are supposed to be. Just like movies, apps have ratings. Kik is rated 17+ in the app store. If you use Apple products you can fix the App Rating restrictions on your devices to prevent your child from downloading apps that are not appropriate for them. Click here to find out how. You don’t have to do this every time. Once you have set it, as long as your child doesn’t have the password, you are good. If you use another device and do not know how to do this, shoot me an email and I will research it for you. When your child gets old enough, yes – let them know you can trust them and back off the restrictions, but for now we are the adult. Not their friend. Not cool at all. I cannot stress enough the importance of constantly talking about this topic together and the potential scenarios that could happen.
Kik – You are supposed to be of college age to use this app. Why? Because there is inappropriate content floating around on Kik. Kik is a free text messaging service. Why do you want a service to text message through when you can already text on your phone? Well, people that prey on small children love this. They find your child’s username and easily contact them. They can lie about their age, become their friend, ask to exchange pictures, then maybe addresses. You see where I am going with this. Your child can say that their username is private, but is anything really private? Most teens and tweens take snapshots of their Kik names (amongst other things) and then publicize to “follow” them on their other social media accounts. So, then someone can take a snap shot of that and repost it, and then so on and so on and so on. You never really know who is seeing your pictures and statuses. Your student may really believe they are “private” and safe, but it is up to us as adults to coach them on true Internet safety. This is a good chance to share with them different scenarios. Just Google Kik with your child and show them real life scenarios that have happened to other children/teenagers.
Ooovoo – These is a video app. Once again, I do not see any reason that my kids should be using this. The draw is that you can have up to 12 people on a video chat at once. That’s fun for kids, right? So, what could go wrong? Your child could see or hear something that they do not need to be exposed to. Your child could potentially say or do something that could go “viral” and follow them the rest of their life. Oh, that won’t happen to me? Just Google Justine Sacco.
ask.fm – This is the one I dislike the most. This is the perfect platform for bullies and pedophiles. First of all, a lot of parents do not know their child is even using this because you have to know their specific username. The claim to fame is that the app is anonymous, and kids can post what they want without others knowing that it’s them. Kids and strangers are asking questions that should not be asked. Example: Why are you ugly? You should kill yourself. That is so detrimental to tweens and teens. Even adults. To read more about ask.fm click here.
Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram – They all want you to be 13. They all save everything you post forever. Teach your children to choose their words and pictures wisely. How do they want to be perceived? These sites are easier to monitor what your children are posting, but you can never really monitor what they are seeing unless you are sitting right beside them the entire time. When my children start using these sites I will challenge them to “change the world” with their words. Show kindness and love instead of speaking hate.
Whisper Secret – Click here to instantly see why you do not want your children & teens accessing this site.
There are so many other apps and platforms that children and teenagers have access to on a daily basis. I could never list them all, but I promise to keep researching and staying on top of the current trends. I am obligated as a mother, a teacher, and an adult to be proactive when it comes to Digital Citizenship. It’s my job.