In the past, we posted a blog about how to keep your kids safe online. But, given how much teens are online and how big a part the internet and social networking plays in their lives, we thought it was worth digging in a little more and talking about what exactly kids are doing online. While parents can’t monitor their child’s every move across the internet, having an idea of what they are posting and where they are sharing it can give parents a leg up on internet safety. So, what are teens doing online?
Frontline and PBS performed a study a few years back and while it is a little out of date, it’s worth mentioning because the numbers that were high then, are most likely even higher now.
The study looked at the specific ways teens were using the internet.
Here are a few key points:
- 91% of teens post pictures of themselves online
- 92% post their real name to the profile they use the most often
- 82% post their birthdays
- 53% post their birthdays
Think about this combination of information for a minute. If a stranger, a scammer or predator, has a full name, a birthday and picture the things they can find out about a person using the internet are almost limitless. An internet savvy person could pair that information with other clues from their profile and easily find the person they are pursuing.
These facts are important because while they may not be able to stop teens from posting pictures and their name (any adult with a Facebook page probably does the same thing) parents can then use that information to have an open and honest conversation about the kind of information they are putting online and the possible consequences.
The study also showed that Facebook was the most used social media site by teens, followed by Snapchat and then Instagram. While a large number of teens are still on Facebook, this is where the study may be outdated and where simply being friends with your teen on Facebook won’t help you.
74% are mobile internet users and this means they are using apps to connect with their friends, not just websites. New apps are hitting the market everyday and while parents may not be up to date on the latest ways to connect, teens are. And just because those new apps aren’t always gaining traction and sticking around, it doesn’t mean teens aren’t using them when they first hit the market. This makes it virtually impossible for parents to follow and connect with their kids on every platform they are using.
What’s even more disturbing are the types of apps that are coming out and being tried out by teens. An app called YouNow recently urged CBS to ask if it was a “parent’s worst nightmare.” The app is basically a live-stream that allows the user to broadcast whatever they are doing over the internet and let anyone find it using hashtags. In 2015, it had 100 million users. And even with those millions of users, many hadn’t even heard of it. This is just one example of the apps teens couldn’t be using without their parents knowledge.
So, what can parents do?
As we mentioned in our last post on this topic, being friends with your teens on the sites you both use is important. But, accepting that you can’t track everything is also important. Once you accept this, the next step becomes teaching kids to make responsible choices online and making sure they are aware of the consequences if they don’t.
While it may seem extreme, there are apps you can get that allow you track the movements of your teen while they are online. This may make you seem like a controlling dictator, but isn’t that better than the alternative?
We mentioned it before, but it is worth repeating, make sure your kids know where they can go if they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation, even if it’s not to a parent. Educate them on the signs of dangers online and give them the tools to combat those dangers. Empower them to protect themselves.
Articles like this are not meant to scare, but simply educate parents on the constantly changing state of the social and highly public lives their teens are leading.