As a teen, much of your online activity is probably a mystery to your parents. They might have friended you on Facebook, or know that you like Instagram, but they probably have almost no idea about most of the apps and social media sites you use, and why. If you’re up to no good, you might think this is a good thing.
Well, you shouldn’t be up to no good, online or in person. By that we mean doing really bad things, like cyberbullying, making racist or homophobic comments, threats of physical injury and the like. The things that you put online can be permanent, and follow you around like a dark cloud for years in the future. Just because your parents don’t know that you’re doing bad things online doesn’t make it okay.
As for the not-quite-so-bad-things, your parents probably don’t have any idea about those either – the joking, needling and the stupid-funny things.
There is a third group of online activities – things that are harmless or positive. If your parents don’t know about those, you aren’t doing yourself any favors.
It is a good idea to get them up to speed on what you do online. Here’s why:
They might get off your back – Even if they are not constantly badgering you about it, they probably think you spend way too much time online. If they have some idea of what you’re doing, and some of it is positive, they’ll be less likely to hound you about your online time.
A second opinion – Since what you’re posting online could be there forever, have you thought about how it looks to other people? A parent’s view about your online profiles and what you’re posting could be invaluable. You might not want the first adult who sees the online you to be a college admissions officer or a prospective employer.
They might be able to help – Your parents are ahead of you by 20 – 30 years in terms of life experience. There are times when you’re going to need help either doing something (any idea how I…?) or reacting to something (cyberbullying, identity theft). The help you need might be living under the same roof.
You might get new electronics – If you don’t think you need a new phone or laptop now, you will soon. Your parents have more money than you do. If they have a positive view of what you’re doing with your electronics, they’re more likely to agree to that upgrade when you need it.
Remember that your parents are not the enemy; they are in fact your most loyal supporters. By giving them a real window into what you do online, you can both put them at ease and in some cases make your life a little better.
First of all, a big hat tip to Teen Safe, who put together the infographic below by assembling data from what looks like no fewer than 14 sources.
It serves as a powerful snapshot of how teens are actually using their cell phones and social media and apps.
We do have a slight problem with the title of the info graphic, though. “The Social Life of the App-Addcited Teen” is catchy, although we think that the word addicted may be a little strong. That is not unlike like saying that teenage girls 20 years ago tended to be addicted to chatting. Apps and social media are just how young people communicate these days, for better or worse.
The challenge for parents, in our view, is that they tend to not fully grasp how much online communication is going on, or the fact that it happens primarily via smartphone. As a parent, if you don’t know what is going on, it is nearly impossible to guide safe and responsible behavior.
If you’re looking for a quick and confidential view of what your teen is doing online, ThirdParent can help. We are parents ourselves, and we understand the challenge.
Teen sexting is real, but your teen isn’t doing it. We get it.
When teen sexting isn’t in the news, parents tend not to think much about it. When it is in the news (there have been two high profile cases in New Jersey this month) it’s usually because some teens get caught at school with inappropriate photos, or those pictures show up online, It’s a very hot topic, since this is happening more and more often.
Let’s take a look at some recent teen sexting statistics culled from multiple sources, and boil them down to what parents need to know.
39% of teens have engaged in sexting
Half of teens who have sexted have sent nude or semi-nude photos or video
86% of teens who have sexted say they haven’t been caught
More teens (48%) have received a sext message than sent one (39%)
17% of teens who have received a sext message have shared it with or sent it to others
15% of teens involved in sexting have sent a suggestive message to someone that haven’t met in person
As a parent you might be thinking that since only 20% of teens have actually sent nude photos, you’re probably in the clear. Not so fast.
The above statistics are self-reported by teens surveyed or interviewed. 20% of teensadmit to having sent nudes to someone. The real number is probably higher, possibly much higher. If you were a teen who sent nude pictures, or worse yet, shared someone else’s, would you admit it?
As we see with our clients, when teen nude pics show up online, it is always a surprise, especially for the parents.
Why are teens doing it?
In our opinion, it either comes down to peer pressure, a misguided attempt at being more popular or seeming grown up, or some combination of both. The peer pressure could come from a boyfriend, girlfriend or crush, or a sense that “everyone else is doing it”. Access to technology, specifically smartphones and social media, are making flirtatious or impulsive images easier than ever to share, by a wide margin.
What’s the risk if your teen is caught sending, posting or possessing explicit images?
Child pornography charges
There is a permanent internet record
Talk to your kids, as soon as they have a cell phone or other connected device, about not sending or posting sexually suggestive messages or content. The statistics above show that at least 17% of private pictures are shared. Even if you’re sure your teens are not doing it, talk to them about the risks. Make sure they know that you know that this type of thing is happening far too often. Even when it isn’t in the news, keep sexting and the risks of sexting front of mind with your teen.
Now that “everyone” has a smartphone, what does that mean for digital parenting? A lot.
In our household, our teens tend to have their cell phone in their hand or pocket most of the time, and they almost never make a phone call. If you ask most parents what their kids are doing on their phones, the answer will usually be, “texting or playing games.” Some may say/know that they’re also watching videos on YouTube, or checking out something funny or interesting on the web. In many cases, it’s a lot more than that, and creates a challenge for parents who want to stay on top of their kids’ online activity.
Let’s look at some statistics that back this up, and keep in mind that since teens tend to be early adopters of technology, many are undoubtedly ahead of this curve, and not just in line with the average. (h/t to VC Chris Dixon (@cdixon on Twitter) for sharing this week)
First of all, in 2013 for the first time the number of mobile internet users surpassed the number of desktop users.
And when cell phones users are online, a whopping 86% of their usage time on is an app, not on a mobile web browser.
Separate stats from the Wall Street Journal on social network usage also bear this out. Obviously, apps like Snapchat, Vine and Instagram that are web-only or web-mostly confirm this trend, but even networks that were computer platforms first, like Facebook and Twitter, see more than half of their usage coming from mobile.
As a starting point, parents wishing to get a better insight into kids’ phone usage should keep the following in mind:
Texting is happening via app, not SMS – Which messaging app is your child using – WhatsApp, Kik, Line, Snapchat or something else?
Photo apps are actually messaging platforms – Instagram, Snapchat and the like are not just for sharing photos. Especially by teens, they are being used for one-to-one or one-to-many messaging.
Kids are on more networks than you think – Sure, you might be friends with your teen on Facebook, but is she also using Twitter, Tumblr, Ask.fm or a network that you’ve never heard of? Is she using an alias?
Kids have a better chance of figuring out their phone than you do – Put a group of teens together and they will have an infinitely better chance of figuring out how to do something on mobile than the average parent will. Parents are behind the curve. Just because you don’t know how to do something on your phone doesn’t mean your kids are similarly challenged.
The age-old (in internet terms) advice that parents need to confine kids’ internet activity to a shared computer in a central location of the home just doesn’t work any more. It’s still good advice but it isn’t enough in the smartphone era. Parents would be well served to spend more time figuring out what their kids are actually doing on their phones.