A parents guide to Snapchat – what you need to know

Digital Parenting

Snapchat is a mobile app and is hugely popular with teens and young adults. Because it is a mobile app it only works on mobile and you download it from the App store (Apple phones) or the Google Play store (Android phones)

Snap Chat

When you download the app and you register an account it can then tell by looking at your phone’s contact list which of your friends are on snapchat. You can then request to connect with your friends and  you can send invites to anyone else in your address book to connect with you on snapchat.

In essence, the app allows you to

1. Take a photo (Or a 10 second vide0)  and then add text or drawings / doodles to the image. It’s a fun way of sending a message instead of a boring text message.

2. You can then send the snap to a friend or group of friends and it will self destruct within a set period of time (Between 1 – 10 seconds). The image then disappears forever (well, sort of).

3. Your friend can then reply with another image / message or they can simply instant message you back.

4. The other option is to post the photo to “Your story” where all your snapchat friends will be able to see the photo for 24 hours before it self destructs.

 

In this parents guide to Snapchat we will explain why kids like using it, what dangers you need to be aware of and how to advise and protect your child.

What age is it suitable for

You need to be aged 13 to sign up for Snapchat. However, many tweens sign up for it giving a bogus date of birth.

Snapchat launched a version of the service for kids younger than 13 called “Snapkidz”. It basically allows them to take the photo, add the drawings and doodles but they cannot then send it to anyone.

Why Do Kids like using it?

Tweens and Teens  love using it because;

  • It is a fun way to send a message. Why just send a text message saying   “I’m bored” when you can send a selfie of yourself making a stupid face and a drawing / doodle saying “I’m bored” . It’s a fun and creative way to liven up a text message
  • They share photos of themselves pulling  funny faces, random  things that  they see, funny photos of their pets.
  • The fact that the photo disappears so quickly means they can share something stupid or something that makes them look stupid without them having to worry that they are going to be made fun of. It is a “no pressure” alternative to the permanence of Facebook and Twitter where whatever they post stays around forever.

snapchat

 

  • Some kids love it because it isn’t possible for parents to monitor their messages . All messages and images shared in the app disappear and cannot be viewed by a parent who picks up the phone. Also, if you have parental monitoring software on the phone it cannot monitor what is shared on Snapchat.
  • Parents can see images that the teen has been tagged on in Facebook and Instagram but Snapchat images that are sent directly to someone (not shared to all contact via the “Story”) are not visible to parents.

What dangers do parents need to be aware of?

1. Sexting

Even though Snapchat has been associated with “sexting” in the news, the vast majority of kids are not using Snapchat for that purpose.  If your child is using Snapchat it is wrong to assume that they are “sexting”. However, sexting does happen amongst teens and it is something that you should be aware of as a parent.

Many parents think that sexting involves 2 people sending either risqué or explicit text messages to each other. However, sexting more typically involves people taking;

  • Selfie photos / videos of themselves either in their underwear or in the nude. Lots of these images existing on the internet where teenagers take the shot facing the bathroom mirror and these are referred to as either nude selfies, mirror selfies or underwear shots.
  • Photos of their breasts or genitals

Sexting

These photos are then typically sent to the persons boyfriend or girlfriend and usually sent either by text message or via a messaging service such as Whats App, Kik messenger or Snapchat. Studies done in Ireland, the UK and the US indicate that a significant percentage (60%) of teenagers are being asked to take images of themselves with many going on to take images or videos of themselves (40%) and  then between 20% – 25% actually sending the images on.

See our Digital Parenting Guide to Sexting for more information.

Some teens do use Snapchat to send explicit selfies to a boyfriend / girlfriend because;

a) The images are not saved on the phones image folder  where they could be discovered by a parent.

b) The self destruct feature gives a sense that the image won’t be saved or shared. This is a false sense of security however because;

o   The person who receives the explicit image can take a screenshot and save it to their phone. (The sender will be notified if a screenshot has been taken.)

o   There are lots of apps available that integrate with Snapchat and allow the recipient to easily save the image before it self destructs. An example is an app called Snap Save.

2. Cyber Bullying

Social media is increasingly being used  by bullies to torment victims and the main social networks that are used, because of their sheer size, as Facebook and Twitter. View our digital parenting gude to cyber Bullying

However, Snapchat is also being used by cyberbullies in the following ways

1. Because the message disappears

Because the message and therefore the evidence, disappears within 10 seconds it is a perfect medium for bullies. For the victim is adds to the torment because they cannot show their parents the message and how they are being bullied.

2. Using images to bully

Bullies often send images of ugly animals with text comparing the victim to the animal or if they can take embarrassing photos of the victim they then send them to a large group on Snapchat – again, knowing that the image will disappear.

3.Feeling excluded

Many kids deliberately post photos to their “Story” of themselves doing activities or at a party  with their friends, in part to show who is there and who was not included. For the person who is being bullied / excluded from the group this compounds their feeling of exclusion.

 

About the author 

Evan is a digital marketing lecturer and trainer and also delivers digital parenting workshops throughout Ireland for schools and parent groups. He developed his digital media expertise in London where he was Head of European Marketing for Yahoo! Mobile, Head of Customer and New Media marketing at Orange and Head of Direct Marketing at BT. He has extensive experience of digital marketing across web and mobile covering the Irish, UK and European markets Evan is the founder of The Digital Parenting Academy and www.digitalparenting.ie

What Parents Need To Know About Snapchat

Common Sense Media recommends Snapchat for kids 16 and older

Parents need to know that Snapchat is a popular messaging app that allows teens to exchange user-generated photos, texts, videos, and calls — both audio and video. The developer claims that “Snaps” can’t be saved within the app and are only viewable for one to 10 seconds before disappearing from the recipient’s device, noting that the app notifies the sender if the recipient takes a screenshot of an image. However, several third-party programs easily intercept and store any Snaps sent to the user, and users can buy replays of Snaps via in-app purchase, negating the “temporary” aspect of the service. Also, as of 2017, users can play Snaps as long as they’d like until they exit that Snap, which deletes it as usual. If users opt to share their location, they can see friends on a “Snap Map” and see Snapchat Stories from other users in various locations, and if they do opt in, they can use “Ghost Mode” to see others but not be visible themselves. There’s also an option to share public stories on other social media platforms. The app has gained a reputation as a “sexting” app because outgoing (and incoming) pictures, videos, and texts are not stored on devices, but many teens use it simply to exchange fun, silly pictures. In addition, a video feature called Discover has curated content from outlets including CNN, Cosmopolitan, Warner Music, and Vice. The Discover content (which disappears after 24 hours, a much longer window than for other content) often features harsh language, sexual content, violence, advertisements, or videos with, for instance, a character flipping viewers “the bird,” and there is no option to opt out. In light of a feature called “Snapstreaks,” some kids may feel pressure to keep a streak (trading Snaps within 24 hours over a period of days) going. There is also a “Do Not Disturb” feature that lets teens mute threads without outright blocking anyone. As of 2016, Snapchat also has video-recording glasses called Specs available for purchase which record short videos that you can send to your phone and, from there, post to Snapchat. Through the World Lends, users can find Snapchat Art which will place AR art in select cities so users can find the exact location and see the AR image. Check out their Safety Center and content for parents to get more information. Read the app’s privacy policy to find out about the types of information collected and shared.

Screen-addicted teens are unhappy A new study finds that more screen time is coincides with less happiness in youths

Science Daily

Date: January 22, 2018

Source: San Diego State University

Summary: Researchers found that teens who spent a lot of time in front of screen devices — playing computer games, using more social media, texting and video chatting — were less happy than those who invested time in non-screen activities like sports, reading newspapers and magazines, and face-to-face social interaction. The happiest teens used digital media for less than an hour per day. But after a daily hour of screen time, unhappiness rises steadily along with increasing screen time.

Happiness is not a warm phone, according to a new study exploring the link between adolescent life satisfaction and screen time. Teens whose eyes are habitually glued to their smartphones are markedly unhappier, said study lead author and San Diego State University and professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge.

To investigate this link, Twenge, along with colleagues Gabrielle Martin at SDSU and W. Keith Campbell at the University of Georgia, crunched data from the Monitoring the Future (MtF) longitudinal study, a nationally representative survey of more than a million U.S. 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders. The survey asked students questions about how often they spent time on their phones, tablets and computers, as well as questions about their in-the-flesh social interactions and their overall happiness.

On average, they found that teens who spent more time in front of screen devices — playing computer games, using social media, texting and video chatting — were less happy than those who invested more time in non-screen activities like sports, reading newspapers and magazines, and face-to-face social interaction.

Twenge believes this screen time is driving unhappiness rather than the other way around.

“Although this study can’t show causation, several other studies have shown that more social media use leads to unhappiness, but unhappiness does not lead to more social media use,” said Twenge, author of “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — And Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.”

Total screen abstinence doesn’t lead to happiness either, Twenge found. The happiest teens used digital media a little less than an hour per day. But after a daily hour of screen time, unhappiness rises steadily along with increasing screen time, the researchers report today in the journal Emotion.

“The key to digital media use and happiness is limited use,” Twenge said. “Aim to spend no more than two hours a day on digital media, and try to increase the amount of time you spend seeing friends face-to-face and exercising — two activities reliably linked to greater happiness.”

Looking at historical trends from the same age groups since the 1990s, the researchers found that the proliferation of screen devices over time coincided with a general drop-off in reported happiness in U.S. teens. Specifically, young people’s life satisfaction, self-esteem and happiness plummeted after 2012. That’s the year that the percentage of Americans who owned a smartphone rose above 50 percent, Twenge noted.

“By far the largest change in teens’ lives between 2012 and 2016 was the increase in the amount of time they spent on digital media, and the subsequent decline in in-person social activities and sleep,” she said. “The advent of the smartphone is the most plausible explanation for the sudden decrease in teens’ psychological well-being.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by San Diego State UniversityNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jean M. Twenge, Gabrielle N. Martin, W. Keith Campbell. Decreases in Psychological Well-Being Among American Adolescents After 2012 and Links to Screen Time During the Rise of Smartphone Technology.Emotion, 2018; DOI: 10.1037/emo0000403

How to Have Honest Conversations About Social Media with Students

Common Sense Media

When young people feel seen, heard, and respected, they will want to engage.

January 11, 2018

Rosalind Wiseman

Founder, Cultures of Dignity

Who hasn’t sent a text or email to the wrong person? Who hasn’t posted something online they later regretted or seen something in their feed that made them uncomfortable? These are difficult moments for people, no matter their age, and it’s natural to be unsure what to do. But the most common advice young people get about social media is usually limited to “Think before you send” and “Once you post something, it’s always there.” These clichés may be true, but they don’t help young people address the situation they’re in.

If you work with young people in any capacity, you are also teaching social media norms and expectations. But what do norms mean in the context of social media? Norms are a standard or pattern of social behavior that is typical or expected of a group. Our social media use is still so new that we are all trying to figure out what our social media norms are and should be. From when we use it to how and where, we are all trying to figure it out as we go.

We start by looking in the mirror. We must reflect on how we use social media ourselves. What is true for our students is also true for us.

When it comes to issues that impact their lives, young people are equal to us in subject-matter expertise, if not more so. But this is easy to forget. When we do, we miss the larger context and therefore the opportunity to actually accomplish our goals: teaching them how to apply critical thinking to the information they receive, recognizing when it is being used to manipulate their opinions and perceptions, defining what responsible social interactions online look like, and developing awareness about how its use can impact their sense of self and understanding of the world.

So how do we do this? We start by looking in the mirror. We must reflect on how we use social media ourselves. What is true for our students is also true for us. Social media is a constant social exchange (for better and worse), a way to maintain important connections and relationships, a place to find support and share interests with like-minded people (especially when you can’t find it in real life), and a source of information that profoundly impacts the way you see yourself and the world around you.

Reflecting on Your Own Experiences

At Cultures of Dignity, we believe that successfully teaching any kind of social and emotional learning requires teachers to ask themselves the same questions they ask their students. Before initiating a discussion with your students on topics of responsible social media use, take some time to reflect on your own experiences with this exercise:

Part One:
Put a check next to the question if you can answer “yes.” Have you …

  • Posted something, then checked repeatedly to see how many people liked it or made a comment?
  • Accidentally sent an email or text to the wrong person?
  • Been in school when someone showed you a post about you, a colleague, a parent, or a child that made you feel sad or anxious and didn’t know what to do next?
  • Had a friend or someone in your family post something that made you really upset and affected your relationship with that person?
  • Now write down a few sentences that describe your experiences and feelings to any of these questions.

Part Two:
Look back on your social media posts of the last six months and ask yourself the following questions:

  • If a stranger saw the posts you just looked at, what would they think about you?
  • What do you want people to think about you and your life?
  • How accurately do your online posts and interactions reflect what’s going on in your life?
  • Do you take steps to protect your online privacy? How important is privacy to you?
  • Is the way you handle conflict online similar to the way you handle conflict in real life? Are you proud of how you conduct yourself in either or both contexts?

Bringing Your Reflection into the Classroom

Now take a step back and remember that the majority of young people are extremely skeptical about anything we tell them regarding how to use social media. We have to show them that we are doing the work we are asking them to do. We have to show them that we acknowledge we are affected by social media too. So no matter what you teach — math, social studies, Spanish, language arts, or computer coding — sit down with your students and say something along the lines of:

I know I’m your math teacher, so technically my responsibility is to teach you math, but I also want the time we spend together to be good. And I know that I can be the best math teacher in the world, but if something comes through your phone that upsets you, you’re going to have a really hard time focusing on what I’m teaching you. I’ve been thinking about the technology rules we have in the school and in the class. I want to take a few minutes of our class time to dig a little deeper because I think it’s more than me nagging you to put away your phones and not being mean to someone. So we’re going to take 15 minutes to answer a few questions and then have a discussion. This doesn’t have to be the only time we talk about this. If what we do seems like a good use of time, let me know.

You can do the same exercises above and then have a discussion. Share some of your own insights — which shows them that you don’t think you’re above these issues because you’re an adult. Your goal is to approach the topic from a place of curiosity instead of blame and judgment. From there, you can fine-tune your class agreements about how social media is used in and outside of class.

Remember what you know: When young people feel seen, heard, and respected, they will want to engage. When they see that you hold each of them to high standards and you implement those standards fairly, they engage. When we admit adults’ hypocrisy, they engage. And when they are given a voice to express their own experiences and opinions, they will hold themselves to higher standards then we can ever impose.

When to Worry About Your Teen & Social Media

Is social media damaging your teen? Here’s what to watch for 

Keeping your teenager out of the social media world is impossible. Whether we like it or not, our kids are growing up in a digital era — and although that creates major opportunities, it also comes with some pretty big risks. We saw this firsthand when we asked a group of tweens and teens to give up their phones and social media for a week; it was as though we’d asked them to part with a limb.

Even Barack Obama agreed that the internet can be both a “blessing and a curse” during an interview with Prince Harry aired as a BBC podcast on December 27. “On the internet, everything is simplified,” he said. “And when you meet people face-to-face, it turns out they’re complicated. There may be somebody who you think is diametrically opposed to you when it comes to their political views, but you root for the same sports team.” Obama may have been talking about complex political issues, but his words apply just as much to teenagers and social media.

A recent study of more than 10,000 sixth- to 12-grade girls carried out by nonprofit organization Ruling Our Experiences found that high school girls spend an average of six hours a day on social media. And the effect of too much logged-on time is clear. The study found kids who spend eight hours or more on technology per day are five times more likely to be sad or depressed. Adding to the pressure is that 2 out of 3 high school girls report being asked to send a revealing photo to another person, and most of them report that most students their age send sexually explicit texts and photos to each other.

“The more typical and sometimes subtle challenges of adolescence are even more amplified with social media and can be more damaging to a girl’s sense of self,” says Dr. Lisa Hinkelman, a licensed counselor, founder of Ruling Our Experiences and author of Girls Without Limits: Helping Girls Achieve Healthy Relationships, Academic Success and Interpersonal Strength. “During the teen years, girls experience drops in confidence and self-esteem, have difficulty navigating friendships and relationships and often come to dislike their body and appearance. These inherent insecurities of adolescence are exacerbated with the overlay of social media, with the constant comparison of self to others. When every aspect of a girl’s life is on display to be viewed, dissected and judged, her self-concept can be negatively impacted and her decision-making altered to gain the approval — the likes — of her peers.”

The Ruling Our Experiences study put the spotlight on girls, and it’s worth noting there’s a marked gender divide when it comes to social media use and its repercussions. Another study, carried out by Common Sense Media, found that girls straight-up use social media more than boys and are also more likely to experience negative consequences. Half the girls polled admitted that content posted online often makes them worry about their appearance or social status, while just a quarter of the boys said the same. An earlier study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project came to similar conclusions: A third of 12- to 13-year-old girls who used social media believed their peers were mostly unkind to each other online, while only 9 percent of the boys agreed.

Of course, these differences don’t mean we shouldn’t have concerns about boys and the impact of digital overload or online bullying. In fact, other studies have shown that boys and girls can be equally damaged by social media.

With all these statistics — plus the look of horror on a kid’s face when they’re separated from their digital device — it’s no wonder parents are concerned about their kids’ online lives. So why aren’t we doing more about it? The Ruling Our Experiences study found that 60 percent of girls report that their parents “rarely or never” monitor their use of technology. Experts recognize it can be difficult to know how to help our teens cope with the pressures of social media, but there are red flags we can look out for that may indicate it’s time to intervene.

According to Tom Kersting, licensed psychotherapist, family counselor, author and educator, the most common warning signs of an unhealthy relationship with social media include: sleep deprivation, anxiety and/or depression, lack of interest in anything not screen-related, constant fighting and arguing about screen time and believing you can’t live without your devices.

Hinkelman adds that signs of digital distress include withdrawal from activities a teen typically enjoyed, changes in eating or sleeping, increased levels of sadness or crying and persistent anxiousness and isolation. “Social isolation is a key element of depression, and excessive use of technology can equate to less in-person connections with others,” she says.

It’s also important for parents to recognize just how important social media is to this age group. Yes, Snapchat does matter. “When we minimize the importance that social media plays in the lives of girls, we effectively make ourselves less relevant and more out of touch,” says Hinkelman. “However, right now, the strategies that we see many parents implementing are to tell girls to stay off of social media, to limit access to their phones and to say unhelpful things like, ‘If it is making you that upset, just put it away’ or ‘Why do you even try to be friends with those girls if they are so mean?'”

A more productive approach is to help kids develop effective and supportive relationships both via technology and IRL. We need to teach our teens how to trust their intuition, set boundaries, value their own voice and opinion and deal with pressure and coercion. “These are the skills they need for success in life,” says Hinkelman.

That said, if you have concerns your teen is being bullied online, you need to pull out all the stops, says Kersting. “Keep your teen off social media, period,” he says. That means don’t let your teen use technology in their bedroom, have mandatory family conversation every night, and don’t let your teen go to school with their phone until the problem has been resolved. The most important thing is for teens to feel — and be — safe, online and in the real world alike.

Parents can get more advice on helping their teens stay safe online at ConnectSafely.

How Tech Experts Monitor Their Teens on Social Media

The Wall Street Journal

How can parents keep up with smartphones? Tech executives take various approaches to managing their children’s social-media use

While investor protests about smartphones’ harmful social effects began making headlines only recently, Silicon Valley parents have struggled with the issue for a long time.

Tech executives with children share many of the same concerns other parents have about tweens’ and teens’ social-media use—that it will disrupt sleep, homework or face-to-face socializing, or expose their children to bullies or predators.

Those who are experts on the internet and information security also wonder: What hidden security threats lurk in the latest social-media app? Which of many possible paths might hackers take to invade their children’s privacy?

The routes tech-savvy executives choose to protect their tweens and teens online vary, from close monitoring to guiding them in managing the hazards themselves.

Teaching Decision-Making

Steven Aldrich foresees his 16-year-old son Jackson constantly surrounded by apps and devices designed to grab his attention.

Mr. Aldrich, chief product officer at GoDaddy Inc., a Scottsdale, Ariz., provider of internet domains and websites to businesses, and his wife, Allison, shun the parental-control apps and filters with which some parents control their children’s internet and social-media use. “No amount of monitoring is going to teach responsibility or judgment,” Mr. Aldrich says. “The kids have to learn to live in a world where that’s the reality.” Instead, he and his wife “focus on, how do we create an environment where Jackson has the chance to learn judgment, by participating in setting limits and creating boundaries for himself.”

Steven Aldrich, GoDaddy's chief product officer, says ‘No amount of monitoring is going to teach responsibility or judgment.’
Steven Aldrich, GoDaddy’s chief product officer, says ‘No amount of monitoring is going to teach responsibility or judgment.’ PHOTO: GODADDY

They started early, letting Jackson decide as a child, with parental coaching, how much candy to eat from the pantry. This has evolved to teaching him to finish a homework assignment before checking social media. Mrs. Aldrich sometimes asks Jackson to let her know when he takes breaks from homework, Jackson says, making him aware of whether he’s diverting his attention too often.

They’re helping him learn time management, such as scheduling homework, sports practice, dinner and sleep in advance so that social media doesn’t crowd them out. “We’ve seen it start to pay off in how he prepares for tests or projects,” Mr. Aldrich says.

He and his wife also encourage Jackson to think about everything he posts as part of his permanent personal brand, Mr. Aldrich says, asking him: “Think about what you might have chosen if you’d gotten a tattoo when you were 3? What if you got a Barney tattoo, and now you’re in middle school? Would you want to be walking around with a Barney tattoo?’”

They’ve used examples from Snapchat of mistakes other teens made in oversharing, and asked Jackson to imagine how the sender felt afterward.

Jackson, who uses Snapchat and Instagram and also has a YouTube channel of his own about videogames and soccer, says he has learned to ask himself before posting anything to consider how it might affect his image. “Would I want the principal, a future employer, my teachers to see this?” he says. “Once you post something, it will be out there forever.”

Keeping a Watchful Eye

The powerful allure social media holds for teens has led Michelle Dennedy to take a hands-on approach to monitoring its use by her two daughters, 11 and 16. “Once you hand that phone to your child, that is the beginning of a million micro-decisions for you as a parent, and for the child,” says Ms. Dennedy, chief privacy officer at Cisco Systems Inc., the San Jose, Calif., networking company.

 

She checks privacy settings every six months on all the apps she and her daughters use on their smartphones. If social media distracts them from homework, “the Wi-Fi goes off and the books come out,” Ms. Dennedy says.

She teaches them how marketers use free apps to get personal information. “Do you know the difference between free and paid music?” she recently asked her younger daughter. “What do you think an advertiser would want to know about 11-year-old kids?”

She refrains from making judgments about teens’ social-media habits. “Apparently if you don’t respond with a selfie fast enough, people get upset. I respect their culture. I can’t just say, ‘That’s dumb, these people are ridiculous,’ and walk away,” Ms. Dennedy says. Instead, she asks, “What is this doing to your self-esteem?’ And I have to be quiet and listen. It’s an ongoing struggle.”

She also requires her daughters to get permission before downloading apps. “Sometimes they’ll send me an app that is just ridiculous. My older daughter asked for a celebrity app, with a lot of pictures of body parts,” Ms. Dennedy says. “ I asked her, ‘Write me a memo about what this will do to improve your life, and then we’ll have a conversation.’ She wrote the memo, tongue-in-cheek, with a lot of eye-rolling, saying, ‘I like the Kardashians because they annoy my mom.’ She still didn’t get the app.”

Michelle Dennedy, chief privacy officer at Cisco Systems, checks privacy settings every six months on the apps she and her daughters use on their smartphones.
Michelle Dennedy, chief privacy officer at Cisco Systems, checks privacy settings every six months on the apps she and her daughters use on their smartphones. PHOTO: CISCO

She steps in when social media ignites too much teen drama. “One problem for my older daughter a couple of years ago was when friends were using FaceTime while doing homework,” she says. “Walking into her room, I’d see another student talking about how stressed out she was, how hopeless it was, how awful parents were to force them to get good grades.

“I had a long conversation with my daughter later: I know you want to help your friends, but some of these students may need professional help. And I ask her, is this helping you get the grades you could get and want to get?”

She encouraged her daughter to talk with her friend and tell her: “I’m worried that this conversation isn’t productive. What can we do about this?” Or, “My weirdo mother is going to call your weirdo mother. Maybe we should stop.” Ms. Dennedy does sometimes call other parents in such situations. “That can be an awkward conversation, but it’s one you have to try to have.”

Monitoring Closely

Eight-year-old Jack Arkin’s online activity so far is limited to watching children’s videos on YouTube and sending email. But his father, Brad, who is chief security officer for Adobe, the San Jose, Calif., cloud-software company, has already begun shaping his attitude toward social media.

Adobe’s chief security officer Brad Arkin says, ‘I try to teach my kids to understand the tech concepts behind what they’re doing.’
Adobe’s chief security officer Brad Arkin says, ‘I try to teach my kids to understand the tech concepts behind what they’re doing.’ PHOTO:ADOBE

Mr. Arkin and his wife, Carolyn, closely monitor everything Jack does online. They restrict screen time for Jack to 30 to 60 minutes on most days. They read Jack’s emails over his shoulder and stream his children’s videos on the family TV, setting YouTube on restricted mode and keeping an eye on content. “He gets zero privacy and zero expectations of privacy,” Mr. Arkin says.

Jack will probably get his first phone next year, but it will be an old-fashioned flip phone, so he and his parents can call or send texts while he’s walking to and from school.

Mr. Arkin doesn’t plan to rely on parental controls when Jack, and his two younger brothers, ages 6 and 3, eventually get smartphones. “At my day job as a security guy, I know that software controls can be circumvented by determined adversaries,” he says. Instead, “I try to teach my kids to understand the tech concepts behind what they’re doing.”

That includes the hidden hazards of social media: “If you post a photo, people can figure out where the picture was taken, and at what time,” Mr. Arkin tells his son. “When you think about posting something, the questions are, ‘What do you hope to achieve by publishing it? Why does this need to be viewable to the world?’”

“I’m doing my best,” Mr. Arkin says, “to make my kids savvy but not over-fearful.”

Write to Sue Shellenbarger at sue.shellenbarger@wsj.com

Social media — helping or harming your mental health?

In May 2017, a survey by the Royal Society for Public Health in England revealed that 3 of the 4 most popular social media platforms/apps had a net negative effect on the mental well-being of young people. Surveying nearly 1,500 teenagers and young adults aged 14 to 24 from February through May of 2017, the survey asked about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat.

Some questions were on negative experiences and feelings, such as anxiety and depression when using the apps. Other questions were about positive experiences—such as getting emotional support on these sites and the ability for self-expression. Nearly 7 in 10 teens reported receiving support on social media during challenging times. ** See the end for all of the things asked in the survey.

For all of the sites, other than Facebook, the platforms were found to have more of a negative effect on mental well-being than a positive effect. Instagram was the worst—showing that it brings up a lot of feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, as well as problems with body image and sleep.

The survey’s authors have called on the social media companies to make changes to help curb these feelings of envy and inadequacy that result in anxiety and depression. Here are a few of those suggestions and how people in the survey thought about these ideas.

  1. In-app features that indicate when a picture has been digitally manipulated or edited (68% surveyed agreed with this recommendation—remember these are 14- to 24- year- olds agreeing)
  2. The inclusion of pop-up messages that tell a person when they are on an app excessively long (71% agreed with this)
  3. Social media apps should use algorithms to identify people that may be suffering from mental health problems and then discreetly send them info about getting help (80% agreed with this)

For this TTT, check in with your kids about how often they use these social media apps and what feelings come up for them when they do. If your kids are younger, then it can still be a great conversation about what responsibility companies have to their users.

Some talking points to get the conversation going:

  • What are some of the positives of being on social media for you personally? Can you give an example of getting social support during a challenging time?
  • Which platform makes you feel anxious or sad at times and why?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the suggestions that the authors are asking social media companies to do? And why?

** The 14 health and well-being-related issues were:

  1. Awareness and understanding of other people’s health experiences
  2. Access to expert health information you know you can trust
  3. Emotional support (empathy and compassion from family and friends)
  4. Anxiety (feelings of worry, nervousness or unease)
  5. Depression (feeling extremely low and unhappy)
  6. Loneliness (feelings of being all on your own)
  7. Sleep (quality and amount of sleep)
  8. Self-expression (the expression of your feelings, thoughts or ideas)
  9. Self-identity (ability to define who you are)
  10. Body image (how you feel about how you look)
  11. Real world relationships (maintaining relationships with other people)
  12. Community building (feeling part of a community of like-minded people)
  13. Bullying (threatening or abusive behavior towards you)
  14. FoMO (Fear of Missing Out – feeling you need to stay connected because you are worried things could be happening without you)

For more discussion ideas, you can peruse past Tech Talk Tuesdays. If you are interested in seeing Screenagers, you can find event listings on our site and find out how to host a screening.

Stay in touch with the Screenagers community on FacebookTwitter and at
www.screenagersmovie.com.

Warmly,

Delaney Ruston, MD
Screenagers’ Filmmaker
www.screenagersmovie.com

3 Places Families Should Make Phone-Free

Take back family time and set an example for your kids by creating tech-free zones in the most important areas of your life. By Caroline Knorr
3 Places Families Should Make Phone-Free

You’re sitting down to dinner and — buzz, buzz! — your phone starts vibrating. You’re driving your kid to practice and — beep, beep! — a call comes in. You’re tucking your kid into bed and — squawk, squawk! — an app begs to be played. It never fails: Technology interrupts our most treasured family moments.

Sure, our devices keep us connected, informed, and engaged. But meals, bedtimes, and even time in the car are the three times when we need to just say no. Kids are beginning to complain about the amount of time parents spend on their phones. And if we don’t draw the line on our own phone use, who will? Creating no-phone zones is key to taking back important family time. It also sets an important example for our kids. Here’s how to carve out three important tech-free areas — and why.

The dinner table. Everything from better grades to a healthier lifestyle have been credited to eating together as a family. Phones at the table can block those benefits. Author Sherry Turkle says that even the presence of a phone on the table makes people feel less connected to each other. The solution? Have a Device Free Dinner. Once the food is ready, ask everyone to turn off their phones, silence them, or set them to “do not disturb.” And if you’re tired of getting no response when you ask how your kids’ day was, start talking about something funny you saw on your phone, and they’ll soon chime in with their own stories.

The bedroom. There’s scientific proof that the blue light emitted from cell phones disrupts sleep. Poor sleep can affect school performance, weight, and well-being. Also, if kids are texting with friends until the wee hours, they’re more likely to say or post something they’ll regret in the light of day. Set a specific time before bed for kids to hand over their phones, and charge them in your room overnight.

The car. We’re not even talking about texting and driving, because you would never, ever do that, right? Right? Phones in the car also interfere with those conversations you tend to have with your kids when you’re driving them around. Maybe it’s because you’re not face to face, or maybe the open road makes kids open up. So store your phones in the glove compartment until your arrival. Sometimes the car is the place where the deep talks take place. And no one wants to interfere with that.

Why Social Media is Not Smart for Middle School Kids

Psychology Today

Tween’ brains are simply too immature to use social media wisely.

This guest post is by Melanie Hempe, RN, founder of Families Managing Media

interstid/Shutterstock
Source: interstid/Shutterstock

I really love middle school kids. I have two of them! If you have been through middle-school parenting, you may have noticed what I see: Strange things seem to happen to a tween’s brain the first day they walk into middle school.

One might sum up their main goals in life this way:

  • To be funny at all costs. (Hence, the silly bathroom jokes, talking at inappropriate times in class, and the “anything it takes to be popular” attitude.)
  • To focus on SELF — their clothes, their nose, their body, and their hair.
  • To try new things. They are playing “dress up” with their identity, trying on things to see what fits. They are impulsive and scattered, they are up and they are down, and it even seems that they have regressed in their development on their quest for independence.

As the parent, you are changing, too, as you enter the stage of parenting when you quickly depart from the naïve platform of “My child would never…” to the realization that, “I’m sure my child did that. I’m sorry, and please excuse his behavior, he is going through a phase.”

Your list of daily parenting instruction may include statements like:

  • “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!”
  • “How many times do I have to tell you not the use that word?”
  • “Stop flipping that bottle!”
  • “Stop burping the ABC’s!”
  • “You’re acting like a two-year-old.”
  • “What were you thinking?”

Then it happens: Maybe because we are exhausted from their constant begging for a phone, or because we think that all their friends have one, or because we want to upgrade ours to the latest model…we cave. We act on impulse. Our brain seems to regress like theirs, and we give them our old smartphone.

And with that one little decision comes the world of social media access—something we haven’t thought about and something none of us is prepared for. Because the midbrain is reorganizing itself and risk-taking is high and impulse control is low, I can’t imagine a worse time in a child’s life to have access to social media than middle school. Here are just a few reasons why:

  1. Social media was not designed for them. A tween’s underdeveloped frontal cortex can’t manage the distraction nor the temptations that come with social media use. While you start teaching responsible use of tech now, know that you will not be able to teach the maturity that social media requires. Like trying to make clothes fit that are way too big, they will use social media inappropriately until they are older and it fits them better.
  2. Social media is an entertainment technology. It does not make your child smarter or more prepared for real life or a future job; nor is it necessary for healthy social development. It is pure entertainment attached to a marketing platform extracting bits and pieces of personal information and preferences from your child every time they use it, not to mention hours of their time and attention.
  3. A tween’s “more is better” mentality is a dangerous match for social media. Do they really have 1,456 friends? Do they really need to be on it nine hours a day? Social media allows (and encourages) them to overdo their friend connections like they tend to overdo other things in their lives.
  4. Social media is an addictive form of screen entertainment. And, like video game addiction, early use can set up future addiction patterns and habits.
  5. Social media replaces learning the hard social “work” of dealing face-to-face with peers, a skill that they will need to practice to be successful in real life.
  6. Social media can cause teens to lose connection with family and instead view “friends” as their foundation. Since the cognitive brain is still being formed, the need for your teen to be attached to your family is just as important now as when they were younger. Make sure that attachment is strong. While they need attachments to their friends, they need healthy family attachment more.
  7. Social media use represents lost potential for teens. While one can argue that there are certain benefits of social media for teens, the costs are very high during the teen years when their brain development is operating at peak performance for learning new things. It is easy for teens to waste too much of their time and too much of their brain in a digital world. We know from many studies that it is nearly impossible for them to balance it all.

How Can Kids Slow Down?

First, we need to slow down and rethink what we are allowing our kids to do. We need to understand the world of social media and how teens use it differently from adults. Here are a few tips that work well for many parents.

  1. Delay access. The longer parents delay access, the more time a child will have to mature so that he or she can use technology more wisely as a young adult. Delaying access also places a greater importance on developing personal authentic relationships first.
  2. Follow their accounts. Social media privacy is a lie: Nothing is private in the digital world, and so it should not be private to parents. Make sure privacy settings are in place but know that those settings can give you a false sense of security. Encourage your teen to have private conversations in person or via a verbal phone call instead if they don’t want you to read it on social media.
  3. Create family accounts. Create family accounts instead of individual teen accounts. This allows kids to keep up with friends in a safer social media environment.
  4. Allow social media only on large screens. Allow your teens to only use their social media accounts on home computers or laptops in plain view, this way they will use it less. When it is used on a small private phone screen they can put in their pocket there are more potential problems with reckless use.  The more secret the access, the more potential for bad choices.
  5. Keep a sharp eye on the clock; they will not. Do you know how much time your child spends on social media a day? Be aware of this, and reduce the amount of time your child is on social media across all platforms. The average teen spends nine hours a day connected to social media. Instead, set one time each day for three days a week for your child to check their social media. Do they benefit from more time than that?
  6. Plan face-to-face time with their friends. Remember that they don’t need 842 friends; four-to-six close friends are enough for healthy social development. Help them learn how to plan real, in-person, social get-togethers such as a leave-phones-at-the-door party, a home movie night, bowling, board games, cooking pizza, or hosting a bonfire. They crave these social gatherings so encourage them to invite friends over and help them (as needed) to organize the event.
  7. Spend more real non-tech time together. Teens who are strongly attached to their parents and family show more overall happiness and success in life. They still need us now more than ever. It is easy to detach from them: Teens can be annoying! But attaching to family allows them to detach from the social media drama. Your child needs to feel like they can come home and leave the drama of their social world behind for a few hours. They want you to help them say no to social media and yes to more time with the family. They are craving those moments to disconnect, so make plans and encourage this at home.

Don’t give that smartphone all the power in your home; help tweens choose healthier forms of entertainment. They have the rest of their life to be entertained by social media, but only a limited time with you.

For more tools to help balance social media use from Families Managing Media, click here

To learn how to reverse the dysregulating effects of screen-time on your child’s mood, focus, and behavior, see Reset Your Child’s Brain.