Is Your Teen Telling the Truth About Social Media?

If you ask your teenage son or daughter what she is doing online, will you get an honest answer? Maybe not.

rz-phone-1I often talk to friends about their kids’ use of the internet and social media, and for the most part my friends are nowhere near up to speed on what their teens are doing on the internet, which apps and networks they use and whether their actions are safe and appropriate.

As a follow up, or sometimes during the conversation, I’ll hop on a social network or two and see if I can find one of their teen’s accounts. I’m not talking about Facebook – most teens have figured out that they need to keep their Facebook clean, since most of their parents are on it. The racier stuff that we see tends to happen on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr or one of the other networks.

Last night I was trolling through the Twitter profile of one of my friend’s sons, and I found something extremely inappropriate after just a few seconds. It’s not the first time this has happened, either – not with this teen but with other friends’ kids.

I told my friend about it this morning. He took a look then immediately texted his son and told him to delete the offending material. The teen’s response after deleting the tweets was to tell his dad that he didn’t do it.

The last time that I found inappropriate behavior on a friend’s son’s Twitter account, his son’s reply was also that he didn’t do it.

As a parent, you’re faced with the challenge of whether or not to believe your son or daughter.

If he was lying about not having posted the inappropriate content, it would be disappointing but not that surprising really. A recent Pew Internet survey revealed that 86% of adults take steps to hide their internet activity. As a parent, it’s tough to hold teens to higher standards than that those to which we hold ourselves. That being said, in the same way that you wouldn’t post something so inappropriate that you’re putting your job or reputation at risk, your teens need to be careful to not post things that school officials or others deem inappropriate.

If he was telling the truth about not having posted it, you’ve got a different problem. That means that either someone got hold of his phone (which either doesn’t have a password or the “friend” knows the password) or one of his friends has his Twitter password. If it’s the former, he needs to put a screen lock password on his phone and take better care of it. If it’s the latter, you’ve got a bigger problem, since he probably both uses more than one network and uses the same password on all of them. You (or he) should check for other inappropriate content on all of his accounts, and he needs to change the passwords on all of his accounts.

Either way, it’s a teachable moment – an opportunity to talk about keeping devices and accounts secure or a chance to talk about the importance of not doing inappropriate things online.

If you’re not sure that the risk is behind you, ThirdParent can help. With our solution, we take a look at available public information posted by or about your teen (or pre teen), and give you a confidential report card to that you can use to guide more appropriate behavior.

Have a different take? Feel free to leave a comment below.


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