When I was a college student (when Miley Cyrus was on Disney and before Justin Bieber was on youTube), social media hit puberty. Friendster and MySpace were born and opened the door for individuals of all ages to socialize through the internet. Not too long after these happy deliveries, Facebook and then Twitter followed as siblings.
I will admit that social media is fun and provides an often welcome distraction; however, I have developed some grievances with it as I see how it has been immersed within the teenage culture. Many teenagers post personal information on social media sites, which then allows this information to be not only viewed, but judged, by others. As if high school doesn’t provide enough of an environment for judging, drama, and heartache!
Teenage girls are posting pictures on Snapfish and websites like www.ratingmylooks.com hoping to receive positive reviews on their beauty, but then are hurt when their peers are rude and mean. Personal feelings and experiences are shared on Facebook pages that lack appropriate security settings and then peers that are mere acquaintances at school are gossiping about one’s recent breakup.
Parents do not like seeing their children unhappy and hurt. It’s a natural inclination to try to fix the problem and protect children from harm’s way. So what can parents do to limit the painful experiences that can come from social media use?
Well, first and foremost, no matter what a parent does, teenagers will face judgment. Whether this is at school or on a social media site, judgment exists. Even as adults, we experience it. It is helpful to have open communication in the household so that teenagers can feel safe to discuss bad experiences and personal feelings. Adolescence is a difficult time due to physical, academic, and social changes, and teenagers will have a better adjustment during this period if they are able to process these changes.
Within open communication, parents can process judgment with their teenagers and help them understand that although judgment exists, it doesn’t have to make or break your day (or your life). Parents should discuss with their teenagers the risk of posting on social media sites, as well as what they should and should not post for others to see. If a teenager is provided with the possible social consequences of posting certain information, he or she will be less likely to post such information in the future (Gossip is feared!). Many teenagers do not think through their decisions in general (it’s a learning curve) and this applies to social media posts as well. Security settings can also be set to allow posts and pictures to only be viewed by trusted individuals. Of course, the “To trust or not to trust” conversation can also be helpful between a parent and teenager. For instance, does having someone as a “friend” on Facebook equal “trusted individual”.
I, myself, feel like I am constantly trying to stay updated with social media changes and development; so, I understand if some parents do not have a clear understanding of all the social media sites that are currently popular. I do encourage parents to explore these sites so that they have a better understanding of what their children are using and how they can use it.