There are some obvious dangers of social media that as parents we know exist. We all must protect our children and teach them that there are predators everywhere and their social media accounts need to be kept private. As much as we try to do this, have you ever looked at all of the followers your teenager has on Instagram and made sure they aren’t strangers? Most of us haven’t as it is time consuming and we don’t even want to consider the danger. Try to keep in mind that your child does not safely know over 1000 people and if that is how many followers they have on a social media site, they may be in danger. I sometimes see completely revealing pictures posted on these sites and not only do I worry about the lack of supervision from parents on this, I really get worried about the stranger that can easily track your teenager down through looking at other posts. Instagram even has a map right to the picture taken if parents don’t turn it off.
One of the best things that I implemented with our three children who are already teenagers is that they have to get permission to post anything they even think I might question. They text me the picture and make sure I think it is appropriate. If it something I think a future employer would frown on, I say no and they respect that. It is hard for teenagers to understand the implications of a picture on the internet but when I see teenage girls posting more than half naked pictures on the internet, not only do I worry about their self-esteem in general, I worry about their ability to ever be taken seriously in a job interview. Employers (including my own company) check social media sites after they receive resumes and many applicants are disqualified without an interview. It is imperative that we have these conversations with our teenagers about how living in the moment can sometimes hurt their futures in ways they can’t fathom.
The other frightening aspect of technology is the loss of verbal communication that is beginning to become a problem amongst our children and especially teenagers. They are so used to just typing everything that when they have to tackle a problem head on face to face they can’t do it. They would rather just text an argument which we all know leads to miscommunication and mere guessing at what a person means. They will sometimes screen shot these conversations trying to get advice from others which will only add fuel to an already difficult fire. I encourage all parents to make it a point to have their children call or meet face to face when there is an argument and if they feel they can’t do it alone, then go with them if you have to so that you can get the conversation going. After that, leave. They do sometimes need some adult perspective where we know how to have conversations without phones but they don’t need us to solve their problems either. This is a bigger problem that most parents realize and some of the texts I have seen teenagers send over the years can be very nasty.
It is so easy to be mean when you don’t have to see the tears fall from a friend’s eyes or see the pain that is caused from harsh words. We have a fine line here between solving their problems for them and encouraging them to learn from our own experience. They are the first generation to really have this clouded communication so I do believe they need us now more than ever to protect them from danger and to help them communicate face to face so they can be productive adults with healthy relationships.