The Secret Social Media Lives of Teenagers

Kids, teens, young adults, parents, the internet is a fabulous place. At the same time, it’s a powerful tool, resource, and power. It’s changed the course of millions of lives, including the Arab Springs. To quote an old Spiderman adage, “with great power, comes great responsibility.” This power can be wield for both good and bad.

Parents do everything they can to protect our kids from child predators, from becoming a victim of identity theft, or ending up on those milk cartons as a missing child.

As our team travels through Los Angeles spreading awareness on the risks of data leakage on Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media, I’ve noticed an increasing trend. A pattern of sorts. Parents forbid/ban their kids from using Facebook.

It was one to give me pause for a few moments, and on several occasions I posed two questions: “We as parents prohibit our kids from using Facebook, but does this really mean they are not using Facebook elsewhere? Does this truly mean your kids do not have a Facebook account?”

I then play devil’s advocate and answer those questions:

Parents: We prohibit, forbid our kids from using Facebook on the home computer.
Kid’s Loophole: Okay, I’ll use Facebook on my iPod Touch, my SmartPhone, my iPad, use Facebook at a friend’s house or sneak onto Facebook without my parents knowing. Maybe at Starbucks? How about the Library?

Parents: We forbid our kids from using Facebook at all.
Kid’s Loophole: Let’s use a different social media tool. Maybe Instagram? How about Flickr? Google Plus? The reality is there are hundreds of social media services out there, and not all of them have infrastructure or technology designed to manage data leakage.

Parents: We forbid our kids from using any form of Social Media. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Kid’s Loophole: None.
Reality’s Loophole: Your Kid’s friend will create a Facebook profile for your child and use it too.

 

The last one is a bit of a shocker, but it is very much true. People do create Facebook accounts for other people. You may be asking how is this possible? Simple. Generally, your identity as a user is never validated. Facebook does not require a copy of your driver’s license or birth certificate at the point of initial signup. Facebook only requires that information if they suspect your account is not legitimate.

 

Parents, it’s easy to assume that simply by saying “NO” the problem goes away. The reality is that it does not.

Rather than saying NO, Parents needs to sit down and work with their kids on understanding the risks, the dangers of using Social Media. Not everyone out there is your friend, and not every friend of your child’s friend is your child’s friend. Helping your kids to understand that what ends up on the Internet, stays on the Internet, is a great way to help them understand why it is important to manage and control what aspects of your life ends up anywhere.

Educating, guiding them to challenge assumptions, thinking twice about putting certain pieces of information online, helps your kids much more, especially as the passage of time shows that technology changes consistently. Yesterday was MySpace. Today is Facebook. Tomorrow is what? I don’t know. I do know that simply saying “NO” will not cover everything.

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