If there is one thing that me and my peers tend to agree upon it is that we are glad we didn’t have to live our teen years through Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. The thought of what might be to come when my two are old enough to utilise the big wide web on their devices scares the bejesus out of me. Just the thought of them having a Facebook account and using it in the way teenagers do, i.e. say they work at New Look, add 5 years to their age, flood the feeds with gorgeous selfies and be less than restrictive with their security settings frightens me and really makes me wonder where it could possibly go from here. Make no mistake however progress it will and no doubt the internet will be a new and even scarier place by then.
As for the here and now, well there are plenty of dilemmas that face today’s teens, tweens and parents. We all know being a teenager is hard enough, but being a teenager with Facebook showing you what your peers, have or have not got or do or do not look like adds a whole new level of pressure to the already image conscious youth.
Worryingly though it goes further than that, particularly as a parent. Knowing your teen is taking these beautiful pictures of themselves and posting along with their friends on to the internet can make you worry as to who is actually seeing these photos, will they fall into the wrong hands? And what if the photo is inappropriate. We have all heard the headlines and read the stories about young (and older for that matter) people sending personal and private images. Yes I hear you gasp at the thought of a teenager sending a private picture, but simply put, it happens. Whether it is out of an error in judgment or misplaced trust- whatever the reason I am unsure, but it does. The ramifications of this going wrong and photos being shown to the wrong people however can be catastrophic, especially for the young and sensitive teen.
Its not just this, instant messengers have added a whole new dynamic to the teens life. It is well known that teenage girls can be…temperamental…with each other, oh who am I kidding, sometimes they are just down right bitchy. Anyway it used to be the case that you would fall out at school, it would no doubt be traumatic for all involved but you would go home at the end of the day, your separate ways, cry it out and come back the next day having had the space of the night to digest it. Now however it never ends. Thanks to the free and instant messaging the argument at school can be brought home and dragged out through the night and you never really know who is behind the screen. Are you talking to the person you fell out with or her and a group of others? Further when everything is written its, context, tone and intonation is not translated. It is the emotionless written word that allows teens to blow messages out of proportion, take things the wrong way and spend hours over analysing every word. Oh and my goodness some of the things these young woman (and men) say to each other is just horrendous – trust me I have seen them. The damage these words can cause should not be underestimated.
Thanks to the likes of Snapchat and Facebook that arguments and bullying are taken so far and are so persistent that it is not uncommon for the police to become involved. I am not saying that police were never called to brake up a scrap between lads after school before the .com days but it would seem today that instant messaging, photo shop, Facebook etc, can be used to be so hurtful and cause so much damage to individuals that parents feel they have no other option other than to involve the police in a bid to bring the drama to an end.
So what do you do? As a parent what is your role in this? Mr Tammy has a now 15 year old and we have had our fair share of internet related drama over her schooling days so I speak with some experience in the matter, although I by no means consider myself an authority on the subject. We have toyed with and trialled many options but I am still not sure as to what is the right thing?
I know of parents who have access to their children’s social media accounts and supervise them, read messages and just generally keep a watchful eye. I understand the peace of mind this gives and would never judge anyone who takes this route, it may well be the route I go down when my time comes. However there is nothing stopping your child creating an a new and hidden account, and what about privacy and giving your children some freedom and independence? Should that not be respected too? Just because they don’t want you to know about or see certain things doesn’t automatically mean it shouldn’t be trusted. Should we just trust? Trust our children to make the right choices we hopefully instil in them? Trust them to seek our guidance when needed? I don’t know. For my part I would like to think I could have the best of both worlds. I would like to think that I could trust my children to be savvy and sensible yet want to openly share things with me. Having been a teenager myself though I know this is a big ask and I am not naive enough to assume that this, no matter how much I might crave it, will be the reality. So over to you #Whatwouldyoudo? or what have you done? I would love to hear from you.