FYI, my students are going to hate me for this post, but that is okay because I love them and I want them to be safe in this big, bad world of internet.
I had a student tell me the other day that I was an “adult” but not an “adult-adult” because I have SnapChat. This made me take pause; I asked her why having SnapChat made me less adulty. She told me her parents (who are only about eight years older than me) didn’t even know SnapChat existed or that she was even on the social site. This girl is 14 years old and she has SnapChat. So, why don’t her parents know?
I did some reflection, asked around, talked to some other teenagers in my classes and determined this: as the internet evolves, social interactions evolve and parents don’t always embrace change.
A list (since I’ve decided I like lists on my blog) of selected responses which I received from students:
- “My parents are on my Facebook, but they don’t know I have them on Limited Profile. They can’t see a lot of the things I post. I actually will post things on my wall set so that they can see it just so they don’t get suspicious about my activities.”
- “I don’t even use Facebook anymore. My mom still thinks that’s what we all use, but really there are way too many adults on Facebook now.”
- “I like SnapChat because things disappear and you can see who talks to who because of the emojis by the names.”
- “I talk to a guy on SnapChat that my mom told me not to talk to cuz the chats, like, disappear so she can’t see them anyway, even if she looked on my phone.”
- “SnapChat for sure. You can get points and stuff for streaks so I’m in a competition on there with one of my friends for who can get the best score.”
- “I just like SnapChat because you can do dumb stuff on there and then it goes away. It’s not, like, on your social media forever so when I am looking a job no one is gonna search my name and see it, not like on Facebook.”
- “I use Instagram because memes are life.”
- “In the beginning my mom used to look at my phone a lot to see what I was doing, but honestly she stopped ages ago. I guess since I’m not in Campus B anymore or something, I dunno.”
- “My parents have never looked at my phone.”
- “I don’t think my mom cares what I do online. She’s more concerned with my grades.”
Hi, me again.
Okay, so doing that unscientific survey was pretty sobering. A large number of students stated that their parents don’t look at their phones or that their parents were more concerned with grades, which didn’t surprise me in the least. Many times, during parent-teacher evening, I will focus on a child’s emotional intelligence or how they seem to be getting along with peers. Some parents will rush through that and want to know how the child looks on paper, as an academic. Childhood is not all about scholastic performance. It’s about forming amazing people who will grow into amazing adults and contribute to our society in meaningful ways. With everything going on in the world, it’s important to know how your child is interacting with others or you may be hearing “welcome to your tape” and have no idea why.
What can you do to keep track of your child’s online life?
- Embrace the idea that social media is happening. It may not be something with which you can actively connect, but you need to educate yourself.
- If your child is on a social network, you need to be on that social network and you also need to know how that social network works.
- Stop trying to be your child’s friend, but be your child’s “friend”. You may think that your tween or teen will be annoyed by your persistence, but you need to be aware of their online persona.
- Children have a right to privacy, but you are still their parent which means that you decide how far that privacy extends.
- Follow your child on their social media and create rules for their use of the network.
- Your child will probably block you from certain content, this is a given, but you need to make it obvious that you care what they post and to whom they are posting. Children who feel like their parents care about their actions are less likely to engage in misbehavior online. This is not an expert opinion, but just that from my position of observing teenage behaviour.
It is imperative that we as parents in Anguilla embrace the change that has taken over the world. Our teens are desensitized to things because of the amount of input they receive through various media. We can continue to do our part to empower one another.