Making the PIR ITK about Their Teen’s Social Media Scene

The informed parent is the key to a well-adjusted social networking teen.

Social media is the new normal for today’s teens. Our kids communicate and interact a lot differently than kids did five, ten, or even twenty years ago when we were teenagers sorting through all the intricacies of adolescence. While this can make us feel a bit out of the loop as parents, being informed about the different platforms and apps our kids use is imperative. The number one way you can protect your kids from the great unknowns found online is by knowing as much as you can about the forums where they are spending their time.

We may have been mortified if our folks found a note we’d passed back and forth in Spanish class, but the cyber notes our kids are passing and posting today become part of their digital footprints. These communications can and will follow them way beyond the walls of Senora Seils’ class. Teenagers need to understand the truly public nature of social media and the online precautions they need to follow when using it.

Building an open line of communication about social interactions that occur in person and online is a parenting must. There are lots of articles and posts from outlets like CNN about acronyms and lingo that every parent of a teenager should know. Being aware that PIR means Parent in Room is a fun tidbit, but committing all these to memory isn’t going to make social media usage a safe activity for our kids. A quick google search can help you decipher any cryptic communications you may come across in your teen’s digital feed. Sometimes it may feel like they’re speaking a foreign language, but an online translation is readily available. Translating their online choices and behaviors is the bigger concern.

Setting Up Social Media

As parents, we must be aware of which social media sites our kids are joining. Whether it’s Twitter, Instagram, Vine, etc., parents need to have access to their teen’s profiles and be involved in the initial set-up. Privacy settings are a huge safety component when dealing with social media sites. Making sure kids are properly filtering their followers and/or those that have access to their streams is precaution number one. One of the six social media safety tips from Mashable reminds us of how important it is to routinely check privacy settings after a profile is created. With innumerable updates and push notifications that prompt setting changes, it’s important to continually ensure privacy is up to date and as secure as possible.

It’s also important to be informed about the concept behind each app and steer your kids away from the ones that are known for cyberbullying and predators. You won’t find many teens grappling to create a profile on Facebook where all the parents are hanging out these days. Common Sense Media lists the ins and outs of the 15 social media platforms that are replacing Facebook for teens. Take the time to find out the truth behind what your kids may tout as a harmless way to chat or share pictures.

Following the Feed

Being familiar with the apps is great, but checking in on what your kids are putting out there for all to see is imperative. As Huff Post reports, it’s important to read between the lines when it comes to social media. We often put our best selves forward for all to see in our social media feeds, but depression could be hiding behind the happy-go-lucky exterior that’s found as you scroll down the page. Real conversations cannot be replaced with a quick online check-in.

As you scroll through the posts, tweets, and pics, be on the lookout for red flags. The trio of warnings shared by Dadgab shine a light on concerning online behaviors. A sudden change in posting frequency, an atypical need for phone privacy, and/or frequent username changes can all be signs there is something they are trying to hide or avoid. This is when face-to-face conversations are a must to check in on overall safety and wellbeing. It could be a peer or fellow user issue, or it could be involvement in inappropriate exchanges or activities. Whatever the case, the answer won’t come from staring at a screen; nothing can replace open and honest conversations with your teen.

Social media profiles are a new milestone in our teen’s development. As with any other new experience, we need to prepare our kids and do all we can to ensure their safety. An open line of communication from the start will make a world of difference when the communication lines expand to the internet. Be knowledgeable and be nosy; your kids’ safety depends on it!


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