As a parent to a young teen, you are probably already aware that our culture today thrives around social media. For teens today Instagram and Snapchat are the buzz and some feel that if they don’t have an account their peers won’t know how to interact with them. I can’t tell you the amount of countless times as a college student upon the first time of meeting with someone they insist almost immediately for me to follow them on social media. Teens , whatever happened to just getting to know someone ? Believe it or not it's so common now for teens to ask for your Snapchat or Instagram name before asking for a phone number. While tutoring on a high school campus, this past year I got a good idea of the “hype” about followers, why teens take it so seriously , and why they also allow the number of social media followers to determine whose “relevant and popping “.
The More The Merrier
For the youth today, they measure someone’s popularity or validation based on their number of Instagram followers. The more followers you have, the more liked, respected and admired you are by your fellow peers. Some people even go to the extreme lengths to even purchase Instagram followers and likes for pictures. The more followers the better. As a tutor to high school teens, there wasn’t a day that I didn’t hear teens conversing about Instagram and Snapchat and who followed who. I even once had two female students who stopped being friends with each other because one of them would not like the others pictures and follower her back. It seemed ridiculous to me that the students spent this much time, effort, stress, energy and even money caring about social media followers.
It's Not About Quantity It's About Quality
But from a personal standpoint as a young adult in college I totally get it , Instagram is booming and if you want to be cool you have to fit in the crowd. The more followers the better.What young teen today doesn’t what to be “Instagram famous?” I also personally too have an Instagram account. I too fell into the trap of needing to have a lot of followers. What was an eye opener and game changer for me was when I was out in public and someone happened to call me by my Instagram name that I didn’t even know. That was so scary and creepy to me. I thought to myself “gosh if this person knows my Instagram name, and recognized me in a public setting, I wonder what else this person knew about me.” I had often included a geo tag and shared my location. Which at that point I began to realize my not have been the smartest thing to do considering that I didn’t personally know everyone who was following me. And I never thought in a million years that someone would actually recognize me from Instagram. After that incident I changed my account to private and deleted everyone I didn’t know off of my Instagram account.
What many teens and young adults fail to realize is the danger of having a large amount of followers and not knowing who they are. Now with Snapchat, Twitter, and geotags your location and what you are doing are readily available and shared with your followers. It is also important to remember that not everyone is who they may seem to be. Although Instagram or Snapchat may have a profile picture displayed as someone , behind the screen might be a different person.
What Can You Do as Parents?
- Have open discussions with your teen about the risk and dangers of allowing people they don’t know to view their posts.
- Talk to your teens about what it means to build a healthy and positive digital reputation. Discuss the ways it can affect them both good and bad. Also make your expectations on what is appropriate when posting photos clear.
- Ask your teen if their account is private. Discuss with them why you think it’s important to keep their accounts private. Keep up with privacy settings on their social media apps . If you need some help be sure to check out FOSI’s videos on how to set privacy settings.
- Also set the example for your teen. Since children mimic what their parents do it's important for you as a parent to make sure that you only allow people you know to follow you.And lastly, discuss with your teen the potential dangers of using geotags to share their locations. We also have a great how to video to assist you and your teen remove geotags.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.