Hello! My name is Emily and I’ve been asked to blog about mental health and other issues related to teens and young adults. Being a teenager is hard enough but when you add emotional turmoil to that mixture it can become almost unbearable. Often adults are so far removed from that stage of their lives that even though they are honestly trying to help it does more harm than good. I’ll talk about that some more in later blog posts but for today I’d like to talk specifically to parents/adults in general about social media and your teen/young adult.
Every teenager with, at the very least, an intermittent access to the internet is going to engage in social media. It is one of the many wonders of being the first generation to grow up surrounded by digital media. Social media is a wonderful thing and can often be a positive way for young people to interact with the (albeit digital) world around them. However we more often hear about the negative effects of social media such as cyber-bullying and other similar issues. Basically what this post will be is a run-down of all the popular social media sites and their primary functions. Once I give a basic description of these sites I’ll lay out some simple red flags that you should watch for in your young person’s behavior regarding their interactions online.
This is the big one – almost every person I know, young or not, has a Facebook. Facebook functions primarily as a way to update friends and family members about the everyday activities we all engage in. Some people primarily use Facebook as a way to keep in contact with distant family or friends who do not live in the same area. Facebook has “pages” which a user may “like” (the quotes are for your benefit 😉 ). These pages will then have content uploaded to them for the users who liked them to enjoy and share. For instance if I liked a page entitled “Cute Ducklings” the page would most likely share pictures of cute baby ducks. Facebook can also be used to invite other users to events. This may be school activities, parties, etc. The site has both an email sort of messenger and an instant messenger.
Twitter is basically a condensed version of Facebook. Users may share their statuses but they must be under 140 characters which is much easier said than done. Pictures can be shared also, called twit pics. This site is mostly used to give quick updates or share short but amusing stories or pictures. It also can be used to keep up with events or the activities of celebrities. Twitter also has a direct messaging system – the character limit is still used.
Vine is not a website at all, but an app. It is only usable on smartphone devices and is used to share 6 second videos. These short videos act as visual tweets. Most often these videos are used for humor.
Snapchat is similar to Vine in that a user may add their friends and share a picture for a limited amount of time. The benefit to Snapchat is that the user knows exactly to whom the picture is sent and the user will receive a notification if the recipient saves the picture.
Tumblr is a blogging website that is pretty much an open sandbox for whatever the user wishes to share with their followers. Basically what a Tumblr blog is, is a way for users to share whatever content they wish to. If I wanted to run a blog entirely about kittens that would be not only entirely possible but also awesome! Such as this one: kittenskittenskittens.tumblr.com. There is a direct messaging system known as “fan mail” and an ask feature that enables other users to ask questions anonymously or not.
So first of all I’m going to tell you what to do with this knowledge, which is nothing.
Yeah you shouldn’t do anything. No invasive questions, no asking for usernames, twitter names, passwords or anything. Most of the time your teen is probably not doing anything wrong or bad on the internet, they just need some digital space to blow of some steam or display their creativity or just joke around with friends and they definitely don’t want or need their parent barging in on that.
Now I’m not saying that there aren’t times when parents or guardians shouldn’t intervene with their young person’s online activity because cyber-bullying is absolutely no joke. It is very serious and it happens more often than you would think.
As I do not possess a degree in counseling or psychology here are some warning signs from CNN that your young person may be being cyber bullied:
- Social Withdrawal
- Fear of Technology
- Bad Behavior
Of course none of these signs by themselves are a guarantee that cyber-bullying is occurring, but if any of these are being displayed, you as a parent or guardian should start to pay closer attention to the mental well-being of your young person.
Now that you are fairly well versed in the inner workings of social media you can be prepared to more fully understand where your young person is coming from. Next time I will be discussing ways to talk to your teen about uncomfortable issues in a minimally awkward and hopefully effective way.