Teens, Pre-teens, and Social Media

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Are you up on the latest apps your children are using for social media? It is important to keep up with these apps so you can be an active participant in helping them stay safe online, getting to know their friends, working together to handle tough situations that arise and managing their digital footprint.

While many parents’ social media channels are apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp, it is probably not a surprise that our children use many more social media apps and often have multiple accounts, each with its own purpose. Learn more about the social media apps that are currently popular with pre-teens and teens along with some risks to watch out for here.

Just like connecting with different social circles, different apps and accounts serve different purposes. Have you heard your child talking about a Rinsta or Finsta account, what about someone being canceled? Social media apps and usage varies greatly, and besides the linked resources in this article, your child is probably the best to keep you updated on the latest terms and apps.

Besides knowing what social media your child is using, it is also important to find out how each is used. Are their “snaps” usually quick and often silly messages to friends or are they sending inappropriate or hurtful images?  Are they struggling to find friends with similar interests and Yubo helped them ‘swipe right’ into a great friendship, or is it being used in a way that allows predators to target them? If you don’t initiate these conversations, situations can quickly come up where strangers arrange meetings or children unknowingly reveal too much about who and where they are.

There is no easy answer to social media and specific apps being good or bad but understanding who your child is using them with, and what they hope to get out of using the apps, helps you decide how to address any concerns you might have.

Finally, here is a good resource to begin discussing the idea of a digital footprint with your children with activities and discussion points. Recent news has highlighted several cases where students have been denied acceptance into well-known universities because of comments and pictures sent to social media apps (note that the FIS has no affiliation with the publisher of the article).

As we are an international community, we must not forget the legal side of pre-teens using social media within the EU. Because of legal requirements within GDPR, most social media apps now have a minimum age requirement of 16 and require parental consent for those younger than 16 choosing to use the app. This means parents that consent to their children using the app that are younger than 16 are responsible for any content their child is posting and sharing on the platform. Therefore, it is important to establish open communication about what is happening in these groups because, in the terms of service, the responsibility for abiding by the law falls on you as well.

From the Whatsapp terms of service (as on November 20, 2019):

Age. If you live in a country in the European Region, you must be at least 16 years old to use our Services or such greater age required in your country to register for or use our Services. If you live in any other country except those in the European Region, you must be at least 13 years old to use our Services or such greater age required in your country to register for or use our Services. In addition to being of the minimum required age to use our Services under applicable law, if you are not old enough to have authority to agree to our Terms in your country, your parent or guardian must agree to our Terms on your behalf.

Apple’s “Ask to Buy” in the family settings allows you to preview and research free and paid apps before your child downloads them. This way, you can be on the lookout for anonymous social media apps, photo vault apps, or other apps that establish or promote unsafe online activity.

The above sites have many helpful resources for parents to stay current on digital safety and how to engage children in conversations about these topics. Your advisors, teachers and counselors are also always here to support cyber-smart and safe children and you are encouraged to come to them for help with these situations.

Allen Lindblad
Director of Educational Technology

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