Zzzzz… What? Oh sorry. I fell asleep reading my daugther’s texts.
A newly minted middle-schooler, she wants a phone of her own, but we think she’s too young. Our challenge – most of her friends have phones, and she feels left out when they talk about texting and all their social media fun. Our solution – give her an old cellphone that only works on wifi. She was delighted. Her account quickly filled up with her friends’ pictures, videos and messages. But monitoring her messages just as quickly became a chore. Here’s a sample:
At least I’ve learned two new acronyms, WYD (what are you doing) and GTG (got to go).
As innocent and inane as my daughter’s first foray into social media is, its use presents a challenge for families. We personally know really nice kids who sent inappropriate texts that went viral or who got bullied over social media.
A recent study shows that cyberbullying is now more common than face-to-face bullying for kids.
Our generation is the pioneers of parenting on the new media frontier, and it is a lawless wild west filled with shady characters. Our parents can’t advise us because they don’t have any experience with sexting, inappropriate pictures on instagram and bullying on SnapChat. And the experts agree: children do not understand the implications of social media use and are likely to use it inappropriately. Plus, those messages and pictures don’t go away easily, and can have long-lasting repercussions if seen by future employers or college admissions officers.
Pink Fluffy Unicorns and Other Search Topics
For our special needs son, social media use is not interactive, devoted instead to searches on his favorite topics. He quickly mastered YouTube, where his tastes ran toward princess makeover demos and music videos such as Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Rainbows, before moving on to a new site that lets him download full-length Disney movies. He has just once (so far) encountered an XXX site during a “Wizard of Oz” search, but parental controls on content helped fix that problem. We also have our family computer in a common, highly visible area.
Four Strategies for Navigating the New Media Frontier
For all of our children, we’ve decided to take on social media use step by step, with four strategies based on the premise that our children are not sufficiently mature to understand the potential negative consequences of social media use:
- Delay use of devices and various forms of social media as long as possible.
- Limit or prohibit access to content that’s not age-appropriate.
- Teach our children to be competent, respectful digital citizens.
- Monitor all of our children’s internet searches, emails, texts and social media accounts.
Yawn, makes me sleepy just to think about it.