It’s a common sight today to see a teen bowed over their smart device while frantically typing/taking/posting pictures on social media channels, or posting text messages. Shaking our heads and asking them to “put it away” from time to time is not working.
We as adults must engage to protect our teens from themselves. If we don’t, the potential consequences of destroyed self-confidence and/or a spiral into despair leading more and more young people to suicidal thoughts/attempts will continue to escalate. We must parent more to protect our teens from themselves.
Know Who They Know
“It’s better to know the devil you know than the devil you don’t know”. This is still sound advice. When someone comes to the house to pick up a teen, we still (or usually) ask to meet them. Why don’t we do this for online friends who are digitally invited into our homes every day, and in some cases, literally any time of day via smart device/phone?
Now don’t misunderstand, I’m not asking you as a parent to “follow” everyone your teen does on XYZ social media channel – that’s impossible! But I do mean to insist on access to their social media channels, smart devices, and computers. You’re paying for them after all, so why should they be kept from you? Just like a pop quiz at school keeps teens on their toes regarding learning new material, pop “visits” on their digital devices will make them aware of who they are following and whether those individuals are appropriate.
Here are some suggestions to find out who your teen is associating with and how to eliminate possible harmful exposure to your teen in cyberspace:
- If the material your teen is being exposed to is violent, inflammatory or just down right vicious on the side of cyberbullying, insist they unfriend/unfollow those poisonous individuals
- If you find out they have “fake” social media accounts for an alter ego, make the teen delete them immediately; this makes them more accountable for their posts/interactions
- If there are questionable posts/pictures from known teens that seem out of character, sit down and talk to your teen about them – it may just be a call for help that you assist the teen to navigate
After all, back in the day when someone was mean either to me or others, I remember my mother saying, “just stay away from them”. Simple, but powerful advice. We need to apply this to our digital world NOW. Because words and images ultimately do as much harm as physical assault, make no mistake.
Work Through Hard Times Together
We think because our teens “know” more and are “exposed” to more that they are more mature than we were at their age and can handle things themselves. This is a dangerous misconception. Teenagers are still minors learning how to deal with their emotions and subject matters that they are experiencing for the very first time. Leaving them to their own devices is setting them up for failure.
Talk to your teen and find out who they are talking to. We still need to teach them how to deal with criticism, disturbing images/subject matter and the fact that participating in or witnessing any type of bullying behavior via electronic devices is the same as doing it in person. In fact, cyberbullying is worse, because the victim can torture themselves with a social post over and over again until it’s too late.
We must engage or continue to witness the downward spiral of our American teenagers.
We need to parent, know who our teens know, step in when necessary and teach our youth how to deal with intense emotional situations. Shaking our heads and “taking away” the device from time to time is useless.
Timothy Dimoff – Speaker, National Expert, Author
Tim Dimoff’s engaging and thought-provoking presentations are sure to enlighten, inform and move you into taking action on such critical issues as workplace risks, substance abuse, security and societal threats. Feel free to contact Tim today to speak at your organization.