Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Teens on social media: what should parents do?

There are many positive changes brought by social network and empowering everyone to have a voice.  But there are also unintended consequences to misusing social media.  Just like any other tools, social media (I'm calling it media because I want to emphasize the public aspect of social networking) gives us many chances to cause more harm than good.

What novice Facebook and Twitter users often don't understand is that everything that you post can be seen by anyone by default.  It's a media, albeit with "social" qualifier.  Even though not many may pay attention to what you post today, everything that you post will be stored, duplicated (Facebook duplicates all posts so that they have at least 3 copies of your post) and remain viewable to anyone in future.  It's akin to writing down what's on your mind with permanent marker and sending them to your favorite newspaper to be discovered at any time.  By the way, remember this newspaper gets delivered to all your friends and whoever requests a subscription.

That's a lot of responsibility.  It takes time and practice to master this new form of media.  It is not uncommon for public figures to hire media trainer to improve their media skills.  Social media is no different.

Autumn Miller, a 10-year-old girl, with nearly 6,000 fans;
now I should take a lesson or two from her on
how to build a Facebook Fan page.
This poses particular challenges to parents.  WSJ ran an article today talking about how teenagers and even preteens are getting on social network.  The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project reported in summer of 2011 that 16% of kids between 12 and 17 with online access used Twitter.  What's interesting, and somewhat expected, is that these kids are very technology savvy and often find alternate social networks to communicate with their peers if Facebook or Twitter is banned by parents.

Like everything in life, teenagers should have their private space to explore the medium that they'll have to work with.  While providing that space, parents should help them understand the permanence and public nature of social network.

Social network is free to use, both economical and voluntary sense.  But free access and freedom come with catch and responsibility.  The catch is that what you share on social network is what social network will use to make money.  The responsibility is for you to understand your post will stay on the record.

No comments:

Post a Comment