Your Teens & The Dangers Of Social Media
What You Need To Know
The Steps You Should Take
Unless you’ve been living in a cave you are aware of the social media craze as well as the common platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Also, if you have teens it is highly likely that they are participating in one or more of these social networks.
While it’s true that the use of these social networks could be harmless – it’s also true that significant dangers exist. The purpose of this article is to make you aware while also giving you some steps you can take to deal with these issues.
Over Absorption – Social Media Addiction
According to a report by CNN the average teen spends 9 hours a day consuming media. This is a relatively simple task considering that 67% of them have a smart phone and 53% of them have their own tablet.
An extensive study by Marion Underwood & Robert Faris has determined that 8% of teens check their social media more than 100 times per day on the weekends. Additionally, as much as 26% of teens check their social media 6-10 times per day during school days.
This incessant preoccupation with social media can detract from other more beneficial activities. Time spent taking selfies and doing social media posting is time that is not spent on studies, physical activities, hobbies, chores and spending quality time with parents and/or siblings.
How should we combat this? It’s probably not realistic to think you would have the option of banning your teen from social media. This means that you must find ways to accommodate it in a constructive manner.
One helpful tool is if you can create your own social accounts and then follow your teens. You don’t need to barge into their social world in an embarrassing fashion but this can give you a way to monitor their quantity of social activity from behind the scenes.
Another thing you can do is to spend time talking to your teens about the amount of time they spend on social networks. It may be that they will be reasonable to consider what you have to say and take it to heart.
Yet another helpful tool is to become more involved in their social network activities. In other words, use your teen’s social media as a tool to stir up conversations with them.
Here are some examples:
- “Who comments the most on your posts?”
- “I would love to see some of your most liked selfies.”
- “What is your favorite social network and why.”
- “How do you feel when you get negative comments?”
- “Does it bother you if other people have more followers than you?”
Last but not least, don’t forget to give your teen enticing options to pull them away from that digital world. Ask them to join you in a trip to the mall, a bike ride, outdoor activities, hobbies, etc. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that quality time with you can be a way to replace social media activity with more constructive options.
Here are a few helpful online resources for learning more about social media addiction:
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place via electronic technology. This typically involves threats, intimidation, belittling and ostracizing. The results of this can range from mild irritation all the way up to physical violence and even suicide.
To fully understand the magnitude of this problem simply take a look at the following alarming statistics from DoSomething.org.
- Victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider committing suicide
- Girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims or perpetrators
- 25% has had it happen more than once
- Roughly 43% of kids have been bullied online
- 70% of students report seeing frequent bullying online
- About 3/4 have visited a website bashing another student
- Only 10% of victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse
The best way you can protect your teens from cyberbullying is to openly communicate with them about the subject. Ask them if they have experienced it and also educate them on how they should respond if and when it happens.
Here is some helpful advice you should share with them:
- If you are at school immediately inform a parent, sibling, teacher or staff
- If you are alone notify authorities and move to a busy location
- As soon as possible always let your parents know what is going on
- If it is a text forward it to a parent, family member or trusted person
- Do not take it personal but instead realize they need help
- Do not retaliate but instead withdraw from the situation
- Try to avoid locations where the bully hangs out or frequents
- Consider temporarily changing your cell phone number
- Block the bully from viewing your social media accounts
Here are some helpful online resources for learning more about cyberbullying:
Arguably the greatest social media danger to your teens would be child predators. According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) there are nearly ¾ million registered sex offenders in the USA.
Most alarming is that this astounding number only represents the ones we are aware of due to registration. The actual number is likely substantially higher as a result of a quantity of offenders that are not registered.
In 2015 alone the NCMEC reports that they received 4.4 million incoming reports for the following:
- Apparent child sexual abuse images
- Online enticement, including sextortion
- Child sex trafficking
- Child sexual molestation
So what does social media have to do with child predators? In essence, social media has empowered them with a new and incredibly potent tool which allows for them to seek out their victims from a cloaked and anonymous position. Deception and trickery are conveniently employed to gain access to and exploit unsuspecting teens.
Thanks to a special by Dateline NBC entitled “To Catch A Predator” – public awareness of this problem has improved. While watching these episodes people were horrified to see how easily child predators could meet teens online and then proceed to meet with them in person.
More recently, Coby Persin obtained parental consent to do an experiment to show just how easy it is for child predators to gain access to your teens. The results are shocking as you can see by watching the video below:
What can you do to protect your teen from online predators? The most important thing is to spend time having in-depth discussions with them. You can watch programs with them and view online resources followed by conversation that is designed to educate them on the seriousness of this danger.
Another step you can take is to make sure than all of their social media apps have their location display turned off. Predators have been known to exploit this vulnerability as it provides them with the precise whereabouts of your unsuspecting teen.
Finally, work out a plan of action to be taken in the event of any potential child predator activity. Make sure that your teen has a sensible plan of action that is designed to protect them while also notifying you and the authorities as quickly as possible.
Provide your teens with the following tips:
- Always avoid social media connections when you don’t know them personally
- Never arrange face-to-face meetings with anyone they met online
- Never expose personal photos to strangers online
- Never give out personal information such as address, location or phone number
- Never download images from any unknown source
- Never respond to images that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent or harassing
- Never trust any online profile or online information as it may be fake
- Immediately report any suspicious activity to parents and authorities
Here are some helpful online resources for learning more about protecting your teens from online child predators: