Thursday, October 21, 2021

Teens, can’t you just stop posting that thing?

Mildly concerned about your teen’s online behavior? Then here’s some advice from CNN’s Samantha Rhodes on how to help your kid remain safe on social media.

What do you do if you’re worried about your teen using Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram while they’re at home?

After a 19-year-old Wisconsin man was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in March, then posting a video of the encounter online, parental supervision of teens’ social media is once again a hot topic.

While child sex crime experts generally agree that parenting children’s social media use is an important part of a responsible sex education program, some parents are taking it to a whole new level.

Fuelled by an academic study that found social media is worse for young people than classic television, a recent surge in parents “slapping” their kids on the wrist when they get on social media.

Parents who logged in to their child’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account, blocked their account, or sent a message letting them know that they are no longer welcome, tell CNN Parents how they’ve used social media education to become better, more responsible parents.

But who should be getting involved?

Worried about your teen on social media? Here’s some advice from CNN’s Samantha Rhodes on how to help your kid remain safe on social media.

Is it safe for teens to be on social media?

“There are always risks associated with using social media,” says Michael Freedman, a child and adolescent expert from UCLA’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research.

If the kids’ accounts are restricted to adults and their identities are masked, and they get enough media training, then social media has some advantages over other media: it could present a false sense of security.

“One of the things that can happen on social media is that you have less chance of losing your anonymity as you use it — you have to be way more conscious about what you’re posting,” says Freedman. “The second thing is that you get more feedback from the rest of the world about what you’ve been doing, which can come in the form of comments and likes or things like that. It’s always a positive learning experience, it’s just increased stimulation in more places.”

That doesn’t mean that social media has no potential to traumatize — sometimes the news you see on social media can be troubling.

“It’s important for kids to know and understand there are some messages that can be hurtful or harmful,” says Freedman. “There are some messages that kids can be sent that can be hurtful that they can’t even see when it’s happening. And for kids it’s the reality that everybody’s out there taking pictures and posting things that are confidential or private.”

While it’s easy to think that kids have no idea how to make decisions about how they’ll behave online, “I think that’s a dangerous assumption,” says Freedman.

If kids aren’t in control of what goes on their profiles, they’ll be easier to abuse, he says. And in fact, with an easy tool called Redirect, apps can now delete posts before kids can view them.

For kids who are being bullied on social media, then, they need to be better prepared.

How does social media really work?

Teens are young and need a lot of encouragement to take a deep breath, look themselves in the mirror and decide what they’re going to share and how they’re going to share it.

“Having kids take some time and set some boundaries on how they want to be seen by others… that’s good communication and a good time for kids to discuss boundaries,” says Freedman.

For parents, having kids talk about what they need in terms of role modeling and boundaries is a healthy way of making sure that their teens know how to live well and be who they are in this world.

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