Social Media: Is It Your Teen’s New Drug of Choice?

SocialMedia2When you think of drugs, most think of cocaine, marijuana, molly, crack, ecstasy, etc…

Years ago when Facebook hit the scene no one really knew what to expect from the website.

The site was exclusive to college students and allowed them to keep in touch with their friends at different colleges… and that’s it.

Fast forward to today and social media, which has grown far beyond just Facebook with the addition of websites like Twitter and YouTube, has become an addiction that doesn’t just encompass college students, it encompasses teens, parents, and grandparents alike. Even our pets have their own Facebook pages or Twitter accounts.

Don’t believe that social media is a metaphorical type of drug? Let’s compare.

1. It fills a self-imposed boredom: How many times have you heard someone say, “well I just get on to [Facebook, Twitter, etc.] when I’m bored”? People spend more time being “bored” than ever before. Instead of getting out and doing something we choose to spend our time inside on a computer checking up on other people’s lives and connecting with our friends through websites. Like a drug taking up all of our free time that could be spent doing something productive, instead we opt to fill our free time with social media.

2. It gives highs and lows: What about when you log onto a social media website and see that you have new notifications or connections? There is that instant high that someone has reached out to you publicly on a social media site. We crave social media popularity. It’s addicting. We need the gratification and we get jealous when we see other people are more popular and depressed when no one has tagged us in anything.

3. It’s used as a reward: Finish a project? Check Twitter. Write an article? Check Facebook. Check off items on a to-do list? Check blogs. We use social media as a reward for completing everyday tasks that deserve no reward, tasks that we should be doing because we are supposed to, not because it will allow us to reward ourselves with our next social media high.

4. It causes us to have withdrawals: Maybe the first time you noticed was when you sat at a stoplight and had to log onto your Facebook account from your phone… just to see if anything interesting was happening. Maybe it was when you couldn’t sit through dinner without tweeting something to your followers. Maybe it was the first time you got a pang of longing to log on because you weren’t around an internet. Whatever the cause, we suffer withdrawals from not being able to check in with our social media sites, just like drug addicts long for the next time they can get high.

5. It’s a tough addiction to break: As easy as it is to say that you aren’t addicted to social media as soon as you think about closing your accounts you’re probably met with that same fear that many people feel when faced with the thought of a life without it. How will you function since it’s become such an integral part of your life? Many of us have been addicted for so long that it would be incredibly difficult to make a clean break from the constant routine of checking our varying social media profiles.

Social media may not be illegal and it may not come with serious physical consequences, but it is an addiction that we are facing, and our teens are facing it in an even greater way because they’ve been inundated into the social media culture at a much earlier age than our generation of young and old adults were.

Contributor: Coleen Torres, blogger at phone internet, Save money on home phone, digital TV, and high-speed Internet by comparing prices from providers in your area for standalone service or phone TV Internet bundles.

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Teens and Internet Gossip

TeenCyberbullyingSocial media sites such as Ask.fm have been in the news lately and the headlines are not ones that parents would one to hear about their teens.  Gossip, whether online or off, can be cruel and harmful to others, especially when a person is already struggling with self-esteem issues.

“Sure enough, I had a parent come to my door and say, ‘Your daughter has been saying some rather nasty things about my daughter on this website.’”

– Patti, Mother

High school students have always spread gossip in the halls, on the walls and on the phone.  Now, it’s on the Internet, too.  On various message boards specific to communities around the country, kids write about whom they hate, whom they think is pregnant or has an STD and record other often hurtful rumors that may or may not be true.

Sixteen-year-old Jessica remembers once when some kids at her school wrote cruel things about her on the Web.

“They were just making fun of me,” she says.  “You know, she’s really ugly, she’s this, she’s that, ba-ba-ba.”

Jessica’s 11-year-old sister, Emma, admits she’s used the Web to write nasty things about another girl, though she regrets it now.

“After a while, you’re like, how could I have been so mean?  Like, why did I do that?” she says.

The other girl’s father eventually became so frustrated with what Emma had said that he came to her door and demanded her mother make her stop.

Experts say gossip on the Internet can be more harmful than the old-fashioned kind.  It’s often anonymous because kids use fake screen names.  It has the power of the written word, so it lasts longer and is taken more seriously.  And, unlikely ugly words on the bathroom wall, there’s no way to scratch it out.

“Online gossip is to hearsay gossip probably what nukes are to dynamite,” says Dr. Ramah Commanday, a school psychologist.  “It can get EXTREMELY raunchy.”

If your kids are victims of online gossip, Dr. Commanday suggests putting the gossip into perspective.

“Point out to them how what’s being said on the screen differs from what everyone knows about you as a person,” Dr. Commanday says.

You can also try what worked for Emma:  Keep your kids off the offensive website!

“When she was using it all the time, her name was on there all the time.  People were writing things about her,” explains Patti Thrift, Emma’s mother.  “Since she has no longer had access to that, she’s no longer a topic of conversation.”

Experts say that any time your child is on the Internet, you should know what he or she is doing there.  Online gossip is just another reason why.

Tips for Parents

Most of us remember passing notes during class or swapping stories over lunch with our friends in middle and high school.  But with more teens accessing the Internet these days, it appears that gossip has gone high-tech.  Teens are using message boards, instant messaging and even email to air out their frustrations – often in hurtful language – about their teachers and peers.

According to an Internet Report from the UCLA Center for Communication Policy, 97% of kids aged 12 to 18 access the Internet on a regular basis.  What they’re doing on the Internet, however, may be surprising.  The U.S. Department of Justice reports that approximately one in every 17 kids is threatened or harassed while using the Internet.  In fact, most don’t tell their parents or other adults, and if they do, the adults often don’t know how to stop the online teasing.

Gossiping, whether it’s in the halls or on a message board, more often than not leads to hurt feelings.  According to the Nemours Foundation, if teens spend enough time gossiping and passing on stories they don’t know are true, eventually no one will believe anything they say, even when it is the truth.  Teens who gossip shouldn’t expect to be trusted ever again.  Once friends learn that a peer can’t resist spreading secrets around, they won’t tell him or her anything personal.  And if a teen gossips about personal or important issues, he or she could even end up in trouble at school and at home.  Teachers don’t appreciate students who make it tough for other students to learn, and parents won’t be happy to hear that their child is causing trouble in school.

If you’ve heard your teen taking teasing and gossiping to a hurtful level, it’s time to remedy the situation.  The experts at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota offer the following advice for curbing your teen’s gossiping and teasing:

  • Cultivate your teen’s compassion.  Talk to him or her about feelings – how emotional blows can hurt as much as physical ones.  “You wouldn’t throw a rock at that boy, would you?  So you shouldn’t call him a ‘zit-face’ either.”
  • Give your teen a simple test he or she can use to judge if his or her teasing is playful or hurtful:  “How would I feel if someone said this about me?”
  • Talk to your teen about the when and where of playful teasing.  He or she shouldn’t always resort to sarcasm or jokes at someone else’s expense in order to get a laugh.
  • Examine your own behavior and that of other family members.  Do you rib your children at length, even after they plead with you to stop?  Do you tease inappropriately, that is, about the way people look or the habits they have?  Are you confusing razzing with teaching and discipline – for instance, do you communicate your frustration about your teen’s messy room by calling him “Mr. Slob”?  Make sure that your own teasing (and that of everyone else in your household) is good-natured, not aggressive or manipulative.

As a parent, it is also important to regulate how your teen uses the Internet.  If you know what your teen is doing while online, you can better prevent him or her from visiting message boards where the temptation to gossip exists.  The Media Awareness Network suggests considering the following questions concerning how your teen surfs the Net:

  • Are you involved in your teen’s online activities?  Do you know what he or she is doing and whom your teen is talking to when he or she is on the Internet?
  • Does your family have a set of rules or an agreement for appropriate Internet use?
  • Do you make Internet use a family activity by guiding your teen to good sites and teaching him or her how to do safe, effective searches?
  • Have you taught your teen not to believe everything he or she reads online and to check online information with an adult or with another source?
  • If your teen has her or his own website, have you checked to make sure it doesn’t contain harmful or hurtful information?
  • Have you talked to your teen about responsible online behavior?  Does he or she understand that making threats or harassing others online can be considered illegal activities?

References

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
  • Media Awareness Network
  • Nemours Foundation
  • UCLA Center for Communication Policy
  • U.S. Department of Justice

Facebook Considering Allowing Access for Kids

Despite problems in recent months with its initial public offering (IPO), Facebook still sits on top of the mountain when it comes to social media. As a result, millions of young people find themselves with social media accounts on the world’s social networking leader, begging the question: How young is too young to have an account?

In recent times, the thought has been put out there that Facebook will consider authorizing membership to children under 13 with parental permission. As it stands now, there are millions of children under 13 with illegal accounts, an issue that can present a number of problems for both child and parents.

Problem Already Exists

According to a survey from ConsumerReports, approximately 5.6 million children under 13 are violating Facebook terms in registering for an online account.

As one child-privacy advocate sees it, the Federal Trade Communication (FTC) and Congress should consider making it so that Facebook creates a section for children under 13 and requires opt-in parental permission.

How comfortable would you be as a parent letting your young child peruse all Facebook–or any other social media site for that matter–has to offer? Would you trust your child’s instincts to know right from wrong, worry that someone who means them harm could come in contact with them, or be concerned they would spend too much time on this type of site?

It is important as a parent or just someone that is concerned about a younger relative, student, or friend, that you remind children why Internet age limits exist in the first place.

Remember, there is a reason individuals are not allowed to drive until a certain age, have their first alcoholic beverage until a specific age, or serve in the military until they reach a particular age. Even though being on the Internet at a young age can seem harmless, there are dangers out there in cyberworld that await kids without the proper security system in place.

Before you let your child sign up for a Facebook account under the age of 13, think about some of the risks they could come in contact with, which include:

  • Being a potential target for sexual predators
  • Giving out personal information that could put them (or even you!) in jeopardy such as credit card numbers, bank accounts, or social security numbers
  • It requires more supervision time from you, the parent, meaning you are taken away from other tasks and responsibilities

 

On the positive side, allowing a child under 13 to have a legitimate Facebook account means:

 

  • More openness between parent and child
  • You can make an agreement with your child that they must get your approval before posting any personal information and/or visiting sites
  • Given that many kids under 13 already are on Facebook illegally, you’d be better able to monitor more users and validate user information

Are Stricter Privacy Controls Coming?

As Facebook and billionaire owner Mark Zuckerberg sees it, given the fact that millions of children under the age of 13 already have illegal Facebook accounts, allowing them to sign up legally (with their correct ages) would give the social media giant the ability to put in place stricter privacy controls for those in that age range.

That being said, some social media experts believe tighter privacy controls are not exactly on Facebook’s economic agenda.

As of late, Facebook has been trying out means whereby kids under 13 could be on the site without lying about their age, most likely under parental supervision. Once such way being discussed is having children’s accounts linked to their parents’ accounts.

In the meantime, do you monitor your child’s time on social networking sites? If not, do you worry that trouble is lurking on the other side of the screen?

 About the author: With 23 years of experience as a writer, Dave Thomas covers a wide array of topics from online security to identity theft.

Facebook and Your Kids: Age verses Maturity

Facebook has taken a stand on this question since their inception by setting a minimum age limit for its users at 13 years of age. But just because Facebook says 13 year olds may use their social media service doesn’t mean that parents need to allow their kids to become users, does it?

Here are some thoughts on the subject.

Any age: There are some parents who don’t see a need for setting a minimum age limit for Facebook users. Some of these parents simply aren’t concerned with their child’s interaction on the web, any more than they are concerned with any other aspects of their child’s life. Other parents who aren’t concerned about a minimum age have a very different reason. Their reasoning is based on their involvement with their kid’s activities online. They do not allow their kids full and uncensored access to the internet in any form. They have parental controls in place and seldom allow their young children on the internet without their presence there beside them. They may see Facebook as a connecting place with family.

Thirteen: Since Facebook has set this as the minimum age to join their network, many people have accepted this as being the appropriate age. Peer pressure enters into this big time. Facebook has said ‘it’s ok’ and ‘all my friends’ are using Facebook, so why shouldn’t I? There are a lot of fun games and learning opportunities on Facebook for kids this age, but there are dangers as well. Teens this age can be very vulnerable to adults and other teens who might use Facebook to gain a connection with them. Young teens can easily feel flattered by attention from others and innocently assume that people are who and what they represent themselves to be. This puts them at risk for predators of many different kinds. Kids this age often have very volatile emotions as well. This means that everything becomes magnified in their minds. Hurts wound deeper and friendships are taken very seriously. Thirteen may be old enough to use Facebook, but for most kids thirteen to fifteen, their use of this and other social media should be closely monitored and guarded with strict rules of behavior.

Sixteen: Some parents have held the line and refused to allow their kids to engage in social media activities until they are sixteen and in high school. Since, at this age, they are old enough to gain a drivers license, it is assumed that they should also be responsible enough to handle social media activities. Other parents have encouraged their kids to avoid the social media craze simply because it can be a distraction and a time waster, and they want their kids to remain focused on more important aspects of their life than socializing.

Conclusions: In reality, there is no magic age that fits every situation or every child. Since Facebook has set a minimum age of thirteen, it is wise of parents to support this age limit by not allowing their younger children to circumvent the rules by posting a false birthdate. Each child has a different level of maturity. It is the maturity level and sense of responsibility of your child that should be considered when making this decision, not just their age. Regardless of the age, teens should be taught how to use social media safely and responsibly. When rules are not followed, the privilege should be removed.

Source:  Internet Service Providers

Be an educated parent, you will have safer teens both online and off.
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