Children, The Web And Social Media.

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.

Dr Seuss, author of The Cat in The Hat
Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

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 ( 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.

Oscar Wilde
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

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.

Understanding My Teenager And Communicating With Her.

There exists huge amounts of social pressure on teens today and the opinions of their friends become extremely important. But they still need help and support to build and maintain healthy friendships. I cannot stress the importance of developing a good parent teen relationship, staying connected and especially paying attention to them. Continuing to be a role model, the person they look up to a reliable parent. I am not suggesting becoming their friend just remaining their parent.

“Telling a teenager the facts of life is like giving a fish a bath.”
Arnold H. Glasow

Friendships are a necessary support group for teenagers. They provide a sense belonging and a feeling of value which in turn assists in building confidence. Teens will not always ask parents for information as in some cases they may find it all too embarrassing, for example puberty and what they are experiencing physically and emotionally. Friendships are a good source of information and provide emotional support a sense of security and comfort with others going through the same experiences. For many teens the teen years is where they develop relationships with the opposite sex and romantic and sexual relationships are experienced.

As the transision from child to teen begins it is very normal for teenagers to spend more time alone and with their friends. Essentially this translates to them spending less time with family. Many parents fret about this and fear these intense friendships will become more valuable than the family unit. This is not unusual and if you cast your mamory back and are honest with yourself your behaviour was the same.

Fear not your child, now a teen, still needs you and as they get older and mature you may even need them and who knows they may offer you support. As parents it is important to encourage friendship amoung teens, but it is also very important to know who your teen is friends with and have open conversations about the different relationships with your teen. Encourage your son or daughter to be a good friend there are a few ways that this can be done and the life long benefit is that it will stand to your child for future years in how they develop relationships.

Sometimes young people do not realise that all friendships are not forever. People change over their lifetime and friends that your child is close to now, might not be the friendships they have in years to come. The occasional fallout between friends is natural. Help them navigate through conflict. Show respect to others and they should be respectful to you!

“I tell my child, if I seem obsessed to always know where you’ve been, it is because my DNA will be found at the scene.”
Robert Brault

As a parent there is nothing worse then making the tough decisions and suddenly becoming the “bad person”. Perhaps being told how much they hate you and how you are ruining their life and followed of by the slamming of doors and then to top it off, picture without sound. It is not our job to be our child’s friend. Our job is far more complicated than that. Children and especially adolescents need limits they crave boundaries and structure. And as teenagers they most definitely need a healthy separation from their parents. Our job is to teach our children and when and they will disobey dish out consequences. If you become their friend it is impossible to lay down the law and be respected by your teen. If you have treated your teen as a friend you will create confusion and they will believe that their power is equal to yours.

As our children grow up they strive to learn where they fit in and what is their place in the world, it is our job to guide and give them the time and space to grow into each phase developing to the next stage. Treating them as a peer/friend will not allow them to be kids.

Children Living With Peer Pressure.

Wanting to be more like your friends is a normal part of being a teenager. Peer influence or peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing, but sometimes it might be a concern for you or your child. If this happens, there are things you can do to help manage it. Peer pressure is when you choose to do something you would not otherwise do, because you want to feel accepted and valued by your friends. It isn’t just or always about doing something against your will. 

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”
― Bruce Lee

The term ‘peer pressure’ is used a lot. But peer ‘influence’ is a better way to explain how teenager’s behaviour is formed by wanting to feel they belong to a band of friends or peers. Peer pressure or influence is not all negative it can be very positive. Your son or daughter may be influenced to become more self-confident, try new pursuits, or become more involved with schoolwork and activities. But it can also have the opposite effect and be negative too. Some teenagers might choose to try things they typically would not be interested in, such as smoking/drinking or taking part in other antisocial behaviour.

Normally it is just the simple things such as listening to the same music, watching the same TV shows, wearing the same clothes and even inventing their own language to communicate although this often sound alien as it is imported from the US. Coping with peer pressure is all about getting the balance right of your values and that of fitting in with the group.

Unfortunately it is a fact of life that peer pressure may present more negative influences on children who feel they do not have many friends or struggle with self-confidence. These adolescents may feel the only way to be included/accepted is to take on and consent to the behaviour of a particular group.

Of course as a parent this will cause concern and you become worried that your teen is being too influenced by their peers and not being guided by the values you instilled in them. Another reason for worry may be that you feel your child will not be able to say no when it matters and behaviours could lead to antisocial behaviour. If you cast your mind back to when you were the same age and experiencing peer pressure you may remember on occasion you did things that your friends did and sometimes you choose not to engage in some of the other activities your peers got involved in. The same will be for your child. You have given your child the tools to cope and a strong set of values so it is more likely they will know where to draw the line and exclude themselves from the company of their friends if their behaviour is becoming unacceptable.

“Confidence is knowing who you are and not changing it a bit because of someone’s version of reality is not your reality.”
― Shannon L. Alder

Some good tips to help you and your child manage peer pressure include:

  • ïKeep the lines of communication open.
  • ïAdvises your child, suggest ways they can say no if they feel they are being pressured into something they are uncomfortable with.
  • ïExplain there is always a way out, they can phone or text you. Assure them you will not be annoyed. If necessary invent a safe code they can send you so you will come to the rescue immediately.
  • ïAssist your child in building up their self-confidence this will encourage them and give them the tools to be comfortable in making their own decisions.
  • ïThe wider your child’s social network is the better, encourage them to get involved in activities they are interested in and support them.

Without a doubt good communication and a healthy positive relationship with your child will forever encourage them to communicate with you and help them with deflecting any unwanted negative influences/pressures from peers.

My Teenage Years Versus My Children’s

Chores a real thing in the 80’s

Ah yes, my teenage years were spent in the 1980s and what a fantastic decade. We were individuals and suffered from materialism and all of this was reflected in our fashion and more importantly our hairstyles! Wow, we had lots of them and if we are being honest most of us are thankful social media didn’t exist and thus the evidence is lost and we are not the subject of mockery with our children! I can hear my parents saying don’t eat it all in one sitting when we were your age we had rations, it was the war years. Naturally it all went over my head, the top 40 was about to come on the radio or my friends an I were gathering around the tv to watch MTV!

Back to hair, cmon you know it was a BIG part of the 80s and a big part on our head. Big Hair, volume was in the form of long and curly hair inspired by many of the bands and reflected on screen, hair was everywhere! The Mullet, a favourite of mine, Mel Gibson, Rob Lowe, Cher and omg Ellen DeGeneres. Curls and Perms, this style could achieve incredible heights with hair spray. The perm was popular and our spring heroes wore it with pride, Kevin Keegan and our movie stars, Brooke Shields and singer Dolly Parton. Punk, ripped and studded fashion was the rage, bleached hair with spikes and an innovative use of hair colour was common and it contributed to my baldness. Thank you Billy Idol. Ponytails with Scrunchies, of course ponytails have been around for ages but the scrunchies added serious fashion and it could be worn high or to the side and was complemented with bright fabric which could cause eye damage! Aqua-net Bangs, the less said the better. The Hi-Top Fade, yes it added not inches but feet to ones height. Kid N Play and Salt-N-Pepa made this style popular. Princess Diana, cropped, voluminous and fluffed, the Princess of Wales’ hair was a style all its own. This look was so popular, that women all over the world were rushing to their hairdressers in order to get their own version! Wild hair, this is hard to define but Cindy Lauper and Madonna wore it and changed it often!

The sound of the 1980s was all about image, MTV was born the bands image became super important and nothing was understated including the music, fashion and it was the decade of Live Aid, charity was significant. Hip Hop, New Wave and Hair Metal was born and is a bing influencer in sound today. We were spoilt for options and some have lasted to today, Madonna, U2, Queen Tears for Fears, Bon Jovi, AC/DC and Guns n Roses to name but a few.

So what’s different today, this is hard to explain without sounding like my parents but I have fallen into that trap and screamed, “I would have loved that when I was your age” or “Your not going out looking like that!”

When I was a teenager I cycled everywhere and when I wasn’t peddling I was on foot, walking. A form of exercise alien to teenagers today. The Dad or Mum taxi hadn’t been invented.

Homework, there was no connecting to the internet and a tap of a button and whosh all the information is there ready to copy and paste. No, we had books and libraries where we had to find the information ourselves and then write it out. I didn’t dare not do it and for two very good reasons. My parents wouldn’t give me a note and I was scared of my teacher.

The mobile phone sends me to space and takes years off my life. Imagine a payphone and a house phone with a cord going into the wall and more often then not a lock on it

The top 40 came out on Sunday and it wasn’t streamed we had to wait to find out who was number one, Spotify, my good god how lucky are they. I was hanging out my bedroom window trying to get a signal.

Amazon Prime, Netflix etc how lucky are our kids. Watching a recently released movie in the 80’s meant a trip to the video store and renting the movie and of course trying to make yourself look older to get the 16+ movie. Then you would arrive and no doubt the movie was already on loan. No such problems today, press the button on your tablet (not a pill) or phone and whosh it arrives and no ID needed. Yes, I still haven’t figured out the parental controls. Fame, Dirty Dancing, The Breakfast Club and Footloose oh we were rebels without a cause. Streets of Fire I wanted to go Nowhere Fast with Diane Lane after all Tonight is what it means to be young!

My pet hate is selfies, I just don’t get it. Crowds of teenagers with phones held high and click and whosh its in the cloud. Seriously its cloudy why do I want me picture up there. Call me traditional I would rather wait the two weeks to collect mine from the developer and be suitable disappointed when they are all blurred! At least no evidence to be use against me at a later date.

I loved the 80’s, It was so much simpler and I knew who my real friends were and certainly didn’t have a thousand followers. Chatting is not the same as texting and when you arranged to meet you turned up! A window was just something I looked out of in school whilst I dreamed and an apple was in my lunchbox!