Everyone, from young kids to grandparents, is joining the social media revolution, using platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram to keep up with what’s happening in the world and to tell the world what’s happening with them.
Social media, however, has its dark side. With 76% of 13 to 17-year-olds using Instagram, 75% using Snapchat, and 66% using Facebook, it can be difficult for parents to keep track of what information kids are making public, intentionally or otherwise.
Parents have a responsibility not only to monitor what their kids are doing on social media but also to teach them how to use the different platforms sensibly, so that they don’t give away personal information which can then make them a target, unlike the 69% of teens who have included their physical location in a social media post.
Checking your kid’s Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram account may seem like the modern version of reading their diary, but the interactive nature of social media means it is vital that parents know who their kids are talking to online and what is being said. Just check out this list below of the most shocking things parents have found on their kids’ social media to understand why.
15. Coming Across A “Photo” They Really Didn’t Want To See
Although many parents like to live in denial, I am sure that deep down, some of them know that there is a reasonable chance that their teenage son or daughter is “active” intimately. However, suspecting is one thing and coming across proof in the form of a social media message or, heaven forbid, an actual photograph, is another thing entirely. While parents need to monitor their kids’ social media accounts to keep them safe, they should always be aware that they might just come across an image that they really don’t want to see and can never get out of their heads!
14. Sugar Daddy
Most teens start to “experiment” with their peers, however, some parents find out via social media that their sweet and (supposedly) innocent daughters have a thing for much older men. Sometimes, that older man can even be a friend of the family, someone who has seen her grow up from a little girl into a young woman which, of course, only makes it that much worse if mom or dad find their online love notes (ew!). Dealing with that situation takes a lot of tact and a lot of restraint on dad’s part to not react violently to their discovery (like that infamous scene from Crazy, Stupid, Love).
13. Predator Panic
Parents check their kids’ social media not to see what they’re up to with their friends but to check that they are not speaking to strangers or, worst of all, being groomed by someone online for inappropriate things. There are multiple apps and websites where you can interact with other people online, and for a kid, it is virtually impossible for them to know if the person on the other end really is 12-year-old Kimberley or if it is actually 50-year-old Ron. Parents who find evidence of grooming need to make the police aware, as well as reeducating their kids about online safety urgently.
12. Sent Bare Pics
What teenage boys really love is persuading a girl to send a nude picture of herself. And if that girl isn’t comfortable sending a bare shot, then you can bet that the boy making the request will try every trick in the book to get her to change her mind, including calling her frigid or threatening to break up with her if she doesn’t oblige. Whether you find naked photos on your daughter’s phone or aggressive requests for nudes sent from your son, then you need to immediately step in to ensure that relationships are conducted with a little more mutual respect.
This is more of an issue for parents with younger children, but it is important to remember that social media isn’t just a way to communicate with friends but also a way to share links and files—some of which may contain material that isn’t entirely suitable for your youngster to watch. Parents checking browser histories will often find that their innocent butter-wouldn’t-melt tween has been binging on foul-mouthed cartoons like Family Guy and South Park or developing a penchant for R-rated slasher flicks. When that happens, it’s definitely time to up the parental controls and turn off their feed.
10. Rated Material
And if your kid has managed to find R-rated TV programs and movies, then I’m afraid it won’t be long until they’re discovering that the internet is a smorgasbord of adult content. While there are parental controls you can use to help filter what they watch, kids are getting quite tech-savvy these days, and a quick check of your teen’s texts and Facebook messages may reveal that they are getting hold of their X-rated material via a different method. While it’s natural for kids to be curious about “that kind of content”, it is not the way to do it. Time to repeat that old birds and bees talk.
When most parents were at in Middle School, bullying involved having your lunch money stolen. These days, cyberbullying is a lot more sophisticated and can really affect the victim’s mental health. Today, a teenager’s social media reputation is basically everything, so if someone starts to say horrible things about them on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat or worse, gets hold of private information and pictures and starts to use it against them, it can be impossible to avoid. If you think your child might be bullied, check their messages and look at what posts they have been viewing to see if someone is targeting them.
Then, of course, there is the other side of the coin—discovering that your child is the one doing the cyberbullying. As with a lot of social media communication, it can be very easy for kids to forget that what they say and do online can have a real impact on the person on the other end of their cruel messages. Parents who discover that their child has been bullying someone online need to explain that it is just as bad as physically hurting someone. Too many grownups dismiss cyberbullying as not serious enough, when in fact there is a strong link between bullying and suicide.
7. Self-Harm Tendencies
Cyberbullying may be one factor in teen suicides, but there are myriad other factors which can lead to a young person feeling suicidal or engaging in self-harm. Social media is the ideal place for these troubled teens to confess how they feel, sometimes to friends but more frequently to strangers who are experiencing some of the same disturbing feelings. The scary thing for parents is that these feelings are often well-hidden, and there may be no reason for you to suspect there is anything wrong. Social media messages about their emotional and mental health problems might be the first clue you get that they need help.
6. 100% Proof Of Illegal Partying
Social media is all about photos—from selfies to Snapchat filters, teens seem to communicate in images, and not actual words. All of which makes it easier for parents to keep track of what their kids are up to every single day. After all, a photograph of your son or daughter swigging from a bottle of vodka is a pretty convincing proof that they’ve been indulging in a little underage drinking behind your back. While there are a few teens who haven’t had an illicit drink of alcohol, parents can at least educate their teenager about how to drink responsibly and how to take care of themselves while drinking if they know that it’s happening.
5. Young People Doing What Young People Do At Parties
Similarly, social media might be the only way that parents can prove that their sneaky teens are using illegal drugs, whether that is a soft drug like marijuana or something more sinister. Instagram is full of photos of young people doing what young people do at parties, so parents who have concerns about what their sons and daughters get up to when they’re not around can probably find plenty of evidence—if their kids have been misbehaving, that is. The real concern is when social media gives parents an indication that their children have a drug problem or are using hard drugs like coke.
4. They Are Gangstas
In some parts of the country, drugs and alcohol are a major concern for parents, but there is something which poses an even greater danger to teens, particularly young men—getting involved in gang culture. Here again, social media can help parents to identify where there is a problem and intervene to get help before the situation escalates out of control. Gangs use social media to communicate with each other and to issue threats to rival groups. Gang members also love having their photo taken with their weapons, for some reason, be that knives or guns.
3. Fake Straight A’s
Even seemingly good kids can get caught up in illicit behavior, using their technological skills to help them cheat on tests and assignments at school. Schools themselves are even using tech companies to snoop on students who they suspect of cheating to see if there is any evidence on their social media accounts, so parents should also be on the lookout. Although if your kids are savvy enough to be able to hack the school computer and change their grades (remember War Games anyone?), then chances are that they’re also going to be smart enough to cover their tracks.
2. The Bitter Truth About The Kids’ Struggle
While all the previous entries in this list are serious enough, if a parent finds the evidence in time, they can at least step in and take action to ensure that things don’t spiral out of control. Perhaps the worst thing a parent can discover about their child on social media is that something has already gone very badly wrong in their life. Perhaps their daughter was assaulted or has become pregnant. Perhaps their son has been the victim of abuse. Once they know there is a problem, parents can help their kids to recover, but they can never really undo the harm that has been caused.
1. Pics Of…
There are negative sides to kids having access to social media on their phones and computers–one of which being the strange fascination, mainly among teenage boys, to send unsolicited photographs of their junk to girls they know–or even people they don’t know. Someone somewhere obviously thought that this was a really sexy thing to do, little realizing that no woman finds a man’s meat and two veg an attractive thing to look at. If you find obscene pictures on your son’s phone, then it’s time to sit him down and have a little talk about boundaries.
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