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How to Prepare Your Children for Social Media

Posted on: Sunday, May 16th, 2010

Social media has permeated every corner of society, and this is not just a North American phenomenon.  The access is global and almost instant.  Facebook and Twitter, just to name two, are available on almost every cell phone on the market and logging in is just a few simple steps.  Image capture to upload on the World Wide Web for all to see is one click away.  Are your children prepared for the responsibility?

Every parent wants to believe that their child will think about the consequences before acting, however, on some level, many of us know that this is simply not the case.  Children are raised in a society where gratification is sought fervently and expected instantly.  Children’s relationships are becoming more “adult” too quickly with the anonymity of technology rather than a face-to-face interaction.

A study conducted by the American National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, along with, found that: 1 in 5 teens (13-19years of age) had sent or posted nude or semi-nude media of themselves.  Text or e-mail of a sexually suggestive nature was even more ‘common’: 39% of all teens polled admitted to sending while 48% admitted to receiving them.  Many of these teens, (71% of girls and 67% of boys) who had sent or posted this type of material stated that is was to a girl or boyfriend, while 21% or girls and 39% of boys stated that is was sent to an individual with whom they wanted to “hook-up with or date.   There were a total of 653 teens (Aged 13-19), and 627 young adults (aged 20-26) polled and the data was recorded separately.

Between the internet, studies, books, and people’s opinions, we are being bombarded with data on the subject of youth and technology. However, the simple fact remains, it is here to stay.

The great debate on how to prevent our children from being inappropriate with their technology usage is on!  Some extremists say that your children/teenagers should not have their own cell phones, let alone one with internet access.  Others recommend you keep an open door with your kids and they will be honest.  The simplest solution, and definitely not fool proof, is simply awareness.  Make your children aware of the laws, every province/state/country has different ones.  Secondly, they need to know that once these images and texts are out you cannot get them back; they are there forever and your children will not have the ability to control who sees them or where they go.

It should be as simple as asking your kids, “Would you want your grandparents to see or read this?”  However, this generation is so desensitized that this may not be a great way of expressing the potential fallout of sharing this sort of data.    Research some real life examples, close to home articles that show the nightmare that these actions can cause.  Children and teens in trouble with the law, one parent claiming that her daughter committed suicide over the humiliation of her nude photos reaching her entire school, and the statistics on their future choices for number of sexual partners and unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections etc…

Ultimately, the choice to share sexual images and emails is your child’s,  Just as you can ‘t stop them from sending, you can’t guarantee they won’t receive any.  The safest choice you can make is awareness and keeping an open and safe home for your children and teenagers to be honest with you about their lives and the lives of their peers.


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