HKQ Kids

SOCIAL MEDIA AND YOUR TEENS

Social media is both a blessing and a curse. While it serves as a way to help us more easily communicate or express ourselves, it also makes us more vulnerable. This is especially true for children. There are obvious ways that social media can negatively impact your children: being exposed to inappropriate content and contact with strangers. (Check out our articles on Internet safety and stranger danger for more on these issues.)

However, even when social media is being used responsibly and safely, there are indirect and less apparent ways that these platforms can be problematic for your kids. Here’s what to look out for, as well as the precautions you should take when it comes to your kids’ digital lives.

First thing’s first: although social media sites usually restrict users under 13 from creating an account, this rule is easily and often broken. Even so, turning 13 does not magically make you responsible enough to have a social media profile; as a parent, it’s up to you to decide if you’re comfortable with your child partaking in social media, regardless of whether they’re 14, 15 or older.

This next point goes for adults too: the phenomenon of “Facebook depression.” Even though it might seem like some of your Facebook friends post about every single thing they do, this often isn’t the case. Many users, especially young ones, use Facebook (as well as all other forms of social media) to post what is essentially the “greatest hits” of their lives. This isn’t to fault them for sharing news about their college acceptances, thriving relationships, or exotic vacations. But it creates an illusion for those in the audience, and it could gradually lead to the onlooker feeling inadequate and even depressed. Remind your kids that social media profiles really are just big highlight reels. Let them know that everyone has bad days -- even the people who look like they’re having fun 24/7 -- and that they’re just not posting about it.

Despite Facebook’s past popularity, you should keep in mind that younger audiences are generally moving away from it as their platform of choice. A lot of kids consider Facebook “uncool” in 2019, and frankly it’s for one simple reason: you’re probably on it. They may still have an account, but older and more savvy kids know by now to keep their Facebook profiles family-oriented, and to save inappropriate posts or pictures for other sites. Platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat have become much more favored by younger users, so you should make an effort to be aware of their activity on these platforms as well. Privacy settings are a must on these platforms: unlike Facebook, which operates on friend requests and acceptances, Twitter and Instagram accounts can be viewed and followed at will unless the account is set to private. Recently, YouTube decided to disable comments on videos that feature kids, and remove comments on sections that target young users in an effort to keep them safe.

Of course, social media isn’t being used healthily if it’s being used constantly. Just like with television, video games, or junk food, there should be limits. If social media starts to take priority over homework, studying, or face-to-face quality time, it might be time to set some rules on when and where your kids are allowed to be on social media.

For more safety tips, go to HKQKids.org or find us on Facebook.