Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Teens Online Behavior-Strategies

Ipads, Iphones, Itouches, Ipods, I-yi-yi ...what is a parent to do? Actually parents can and should do a lot. Giving teens these devices is like giving crack to a crack addict. If a little is good, more is euphoric!! Teen do not have the ability to be disciplined about their use with these very addictive tools. As soon as that chime goes off to signify a text, a tweet, or an instagram post, the adrenalin rush is released and their thumbs move into position! That emotional part of the brain, which is in much higher activation during the teen years is poised to explode with awesomeness. All rational thought abandoned for the quick fix and "quick hit" of a 'Wass-Up!"

Get ready for the reality:

  • 50% of teens post their email address
  • 30 % of teens post their phone #
  • 59% of teens engage with strangers online
Here's what this means; access, access, access to their life by potential strangers. These may be friends of friends of friends of friends that they have "met" on instagram using their KIK profile. (see tip 60 in my book A Survival Guide To Parenting Teens.) This may be someone that no one in their circle actually knows or knows anything about, and can become the "love of their life" without every meeting. 33% of teens feel more accepted online than in real life. If you are teen who has felt "under-appreciated" by your friends, and haven't yet had the coveted boy or girlfriend, these "relationships" can be intoxicating. 1 out of 12 of these teens actually meets this stranger in real life. 

Here's what you can do: Make regular dates with your teen to go over their twitter followers, instagram followers, and facebook friends. You don't really have control over their making these connections, but having regular conversations with them like: "so how do you know X?" What kind of connection do you have with this person. Tell me what you know about them?" Not so much in nosy way, but in getting them to articulate and think about who these people are, and what it means to them to have strangers in on their life. You need to work really really hard not to be judgemental, condescending and critical. You want to engage them in discussion regularly about privacy, friendship and connection. 

  • 46% of teens DO NOT give their parents the password to their devices!!!
  • 53% of teens minimize or close the windows on whatever device they are on when parents walk by them
  • 50% of teens clear their history
  • 45% of teens WOULD change their online behavior if their parents WERE aware of what they are doing.
Here's what this means: Teens don't want parents to know what they are doing, because they know that what they are doing would probably be frowned on by their parents. There is no surprise here. What teenager ever in the history of the world, wanted their parents to know their business. NO TEENAGER!!! So this part I totally get. The problem is that past generations were not dealing with sexting, naked photos being passed around like candy, and bullying that turns into serious harassment with lifelong consequences. These are serious safety issues in play here. And parents need to at least have the information so they can help their teens make informed decisions. 

Here's what you can do: My book has 3 full chapters so this so I won't go into major detail here, but firstly and most importantly you ABSOLUTELY, NO EXCEPTION MUST HAVE ALL PASSWORDS TO ALL DEVICES....PERIOD. Don't buy the, "well this is private, and you can't have it reasoning. A phone is a privilege, not an entitlement. And with privilege come responsibility and rules. If a teen chooses not to buy into these rules, than they are choosing not to have a smartphone, ipad etc. It is realistic to assume that teens, with impulsive brains, don't think things through, make bad decisions and find themselves in situations that have the potential to change their life forever. Understanding that this isn't about good kids or bad kids, takes the judgement away. It is a reality of this stage of development. The word development itself implies change. 

Absolutely monitor their tweets, instagram, texts and facebook posts for content that is sexual, overly mean-spirited, and gives out too much information. Use these monitoring times with teens for discussion, not lecturing about safety.

The good news is that your kids would change their behavior if they felt you were on top of it, at least 45% of them.  I think many many teens feel that their parents are completely clueless about their online life. Get smarter!

  • 52% of teens have gotten into a fight online
  • 49% of teens have regretted what they have said online
  • 24% would know what to do if they saw cyberbulling happening on the screen in front of them
What this means: In the old days, if you had an issue with someone, you talked behind their back, or told them to their face. Done. It would all pretty much go-away as some new drama took center stage. Technology today and the impulsivity of the teenage brain make talking trash an art form. If one person can start a fight online publicly with someone, and can than add their 300 followers into the room, the fight becomes so much more rewarding. Now 301 people can weigh in with their opinions. Apps and sites that allow for anonymity just add fuel to the fire, like askfm, and yik yak. The app Snap Chat allows teens to say horrible things to someone, with the confidence that in 5 seconds there will be no record of this abuse, except in the brain of the teen on the receiving end.

Here's what you can do:
Monitor, monitor, monitor. Not just for what your teen is posting. But it can be useful to talk about what other people are posting as examples of the kinds of things you don't want to see. Again the way in which you have these discussions is the key to success. If you pontificate and lecture, you will lose the moment. Instead talk conversationally like this: "Wow, Scott was really harsh don't you think. it must feel so embarrassing for Tom for Scott to call him a "pussy" on twitter for everyone to see. Does anyone ever call kids on this. " What you want to do is open conversations that help your teen to see the feeling sides of the meanness that goes on on these sites. Emotions are what are missing from equation. It is a no-accountability way of living. It is your job put the feelings piece back into the equation. Saying something terrible to someone's face and experiencing the consequences of their reaction is a teaching moment. Texting and tweeting protects one from taking responsibility for their actions. Out of sight, out of mind!

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