Our Teens the battle of the web and social media:
The bell rings and the school day finishes. The pupils grab their bags and dash for the door. School bags slung on to their backs and a race for the exit to freedom. Suddenly the cackling of teenage voices is overpowered by beeps and ringtones. Heads drop to the mobile devise screen and fingers work furiously typing out life or death communications, the world might be coming to an end. Phones are lifted and pictures are recorded as proof and uploaded and sent to the command centre. I watch in awe as I am bewildered how this new form of human can cross the road with their head down and miraculously, the various methods of transport manage to stop or swerve and no fatalities are reported.
Of course our teens love to go online, I wish it had been invented when I was in secondary school. The Internet is a source of information and can be used as an educational tool. The social media tools can be an asset to maintain and develop supportive relationships. They can help our teens to form their identities, through self-expression, learning and communicating. When utilised correctly they promote a sense of belonging and self-esteem. Most of us adults know how to behave in society, what is right/wrong, acceptable or not? We are generally good citizens and neighbours and so are our teens! Unfortunately those standards slip when we become digital citizens!
Zeeko (http://bit.ly/2jVZaXl) an Irish EdTech start-up which works to educate parents to teach their children to stay safe online has published results of its second School Digital Trend Report. 4,439 primary school pupils completed a questionnaire about their Internet use in 29 schools between September and November 2016. In addition Zeeko asked 913 guardians of primary school pupils in 55 schools between January and June 2016 to complete a similar questionnaire.
Key findings include the extensive use of mobile devices by primary school children, (86% have access to a smart phone, tablet or iPod); the seemingly younger ages at which children say they have open access to the internet (on average 1st class students first went online at 4.9 years old vs. 6th class students first went online at 7.6 years old); and the rise of SnapChat which has taken over Instagram as the most popular social media app with 45% of 6th class pupils now using SnapChat.
There is a difference between using the Internet and using social media. The Internet can provide a platform of lots of educational tools to assist our children’s learning needs. Yes there is a vast amount of inappropriate material available on the web but thankfully there are tools provided for us to implement to ensure our child never has to see those dark pages. As parents or guardians it is our responsibility to implement those safe guards to protect our youngsters. Social media is a different animal. Essentially the concept is excellent and when utilised for the way in which it was intended it can and is a very positive and beneficial experience.
There are social media sites that ask for the users to be thirteen and over, much the same as your child’s email account set up from school. Be warned if you misrepresent your child’s age online consider the possible implications of this. If your child sees you lying online they may well feel they are entitled to lie if there is an age restriction on another site they would like to join.
The key to building and maintaining a positive relationship with our teenagers is to always keep the channels of communication open. This is different to the lectures or talks we give our teens. I mean really connect and when it matters, the ability to relate to them in day-to-day life. This will help you and your teen to overcome the challenges they face growing up.
It is so easy with teens to get locked into unhelpful methods of communicating, arguing, nagging and even criticising. Once engaged in either of those it is very difficult to get out. Remember teenagers still need our guidance and advise not forgetting the boundaries, which have been set during their first decade. Tactics are key to success regardless if you are dealing with an authority adverse teen or a respectful teen. Our teen still needs to know we are interested but watchful, that we care and have their back even when we don’t agree with them. As parents we must develop the skill and emotional resilience to continue offering guidance and help even in the face of Indifference and opposition.