Online bullying, sending inappropriate pictures, teenagers being mean to each other this is what I see in the media tabloids. Stories that tell us teenagers are using social media to undermine, threaten and devalue each other. Yet my reality is very different. As a teacher there have been some cases where social media has caused distress. Where a few misguided students have used the tools at their fingertips to cause trouble. But the majority don’t. The majority use social media to chat with friends and share photos.
Challenging perceptions and using social media
It seems that many teenagers have shunned facebook in favour of twitter, snap chat and instagram. That is where teenagers are consuming social media and their feeds are less about other people and more about themselves, thank goodness. Gone are the spiteful days of MSN, Bebo and those that came first. Instead it is now about posting selfies and catching images that are cool.
I don’t mind this change of usage and I like that I can see my teens images on instagram. She shares photos of her on the hockey pitch or jumping into swimming pools. It might be vain but if you don’t start feeling body confident as a teen I am not sure when ever you will. I don’t mind seeing my daughter and her friends posing in the places they visit and catch reminders of the places they go and the things they do.
I’ve been asked more than once by parents that have younger teens / tweens than me, if social media is really as bad as the media often portrait? I say no. It’s not that I think I’m lucky. Rather I think that young adults are getting smarter. Those in the 20’s 30’s may have been at the forefront of social media taking off. They may have been the ones who used and abused social media. But I think our teens that have grown up with this form of communication, are actually more savvy than they are given credit for. Schools also give better education about online life and generally our young people know the score.
Don’t get me wrong I don’t live in an ivory tower where all the teens are perfect. They make mistakes. Some more than others, but I fear that we are happy to condemn all teens to the same fate. Rather than stereotyping a whole generation we need to see that many are working hard, playing hard and turning into the young adults we want them to be with no big dramas along the way.
Tips for parents of teens and tweens with social media
1. Talk to your child about what social media apps they use and why.
2. Follow your children on those apps. I wouldn’t want to know passwords etc now that Chloe is 15 but I do monitor what I see on social media and it means that we can talk about things as they happen.
3. Make sure your teenager knows how to report anything they are not comfortable with.
4. Ensure that your teenager knows your guidelines and how you expect them to behave online. Teenagers need to understand anything on the internet is out of their control and can be taken and shared at any point.