Social Networking and Kids
Recent reports go back and forth on teens’ favorite digital hangout, but the fact is that the days of a one-stop shop for all social-networking needs are over. Instead, teens are dividing their attention between an array of apps and tools that let them write, share, video-chat, and even shop for the latest trends. You don’t need to know the ins and outs of every app and site that’s “hot” right now (and frankly, if you did, they wouldn’t be trendy anymore). But knowing the basics — what they are, why they’re popular, and what problems can crop up when they’re not used responsibly — can make the difference between a positive and a negative experience for your kid.
Both for kids that are already into social networking apps and sites or for kids that are looking to join in on them soon, there are some points you may want to discuss with them:
- Talk about digital footprints. Explain that the Internet’s “veil of anonymity” can lift quickly. Hiding behind a screen and posting anonymously seems risk-free — but nothing online is really anonymous.
- Encourage kids to stand up and opt out. For those who are targeting others on social media, attention is hugely motivating. Remind kids that they have the power to change the conversation — to report bad behavior and to choose not to use these apps.
- Start a conversation. Many students initially download social networking apps because some of their content is funny (e.g., a picture of a man drinking milk accompanied by the text “What if soy milk … is just regular milk introducing itself in Spanish?”). But once community members are paying attention, the content can get both personal and ugly very quickly. Remind kids that anonymous apps can enable meanness; there are smarter, less risky ways to find comic release.
Common Sense has compiled a list of 15 sites and apps that parents should be aware of outside of Facebook. Our blog also discusses new and notable apps such as the geographically focused social network, Streetchat and a continuously updates a glossary of digital related terms, app names, and sites on our Digital Glossary.