Published: 19 Mar 2012
In the world of many teenagers Facebook continues to present some major challenges. Although many of you have been able to stem the tide of social media so far there will come a time when your children will want to join the race for cyber friends and this is the time you need to be there to guide and support their use.
The package that Facebook provides is an outstanding mechanism for remaining in touch with friends enabling the sharing of photos, stories, homework and other information. However, these advantages also present issues when placed in the hands of developing minds. Unfortunately this technology requires a high degree of social awareness and maturity which is often lacking in this age group. Innocent pictures offer an invite for others to make comment with very little right of appeal by the poster. These comments are often complimentary in their intent yet when composed as an email or blog comment they arrive without the social niceties of conversation. All too often one comment can lead to a feeding frenzy and the nature of the responses quickly shifts from those of support to ridicule and harassment. A great deal of our time as teachers is now dedicated to the social fall out that occurs through the misuse of social media like Facebook. Up-skilling our children in online communication techniques, appropriate use of technology and accepting only those that they have met is a great start. In a recent conversation, a parent aptly named his son's ever growing "friend list" as Monopoly Friends. They are friends in a virtual world that are often faceless strangers. Youngsters today accumulate great lists in a competition to see just how many they can have. In the child's mind these Monopoly Friends are very real, however they are not bound by the social constructs of our generation. 'Friend' these days simply refers to someone who shows an interest in what you have to say. Hence some students boast over 800 friends, many of whom have had no face to face contact with them. Gone are the days where friends are known on a personal level. This presents many problems as personal information is shared in a millisecond with hundreds, and no way of retrieving the information. With blogs, Twitter, Tumblr and similar sites all linked a child's cyber network their “friends” usually extend beyond our school grounds and local communities and often take in many people in other countries.
The good news is that parents do not have to be isolated from their teens' social networking experiences. Insist on being one of the many friends. Your children will quickly forget that they added you and it will give you a real insight into what they are experiencing while online. Talk to you children about what they post if you feel that it is getting risky or too personal however allow them the chance to believe they are flying solo. Finally be aware of the time that they are making themselves available online. This is the single biggest concern shared by our Year 12 students in terms of time wasting. Encourage them to use it for a specified amount of time and turn it off while trying to concentrate on homework and during family time.
Parents of 6 - 14 year-olds may also like to look at Who is Friend-ing Your Child?
Head of Middle School