We chat with journalist and author Masha Gessen, whose newest book explores the complicated family history behind bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
It’s “digital natives” vs “digital immigrants.” Today’s kids and teens are growing up surrounded by mobile devices and social media. Meanwhile, parents are scrambling to catch up, and come up with rules for how their kids should use it. We talk about the ways teens are using social media and how parents can help them navigate the web.
- Sharon Cindrich parenting columnist; author, "E-Parenting: Keeping Up With Your Tech-Savvy Kids" (Random House), "A Smart Girl's Guide to the Internet" (American Girl Library)
- Joseph Viola Educational Psychologist, St. Albans School; professor, The George Washington University Professional Psychology Program
- Amanda Lenhart Senior Research Specialist, Pew Internet and American Life Project
From the PBS NewsHour: Is Technology Wiring Teens to Have Better Brains?
“10 Mistakes Teens Make on Facebook (and What to Do About It)”
Tammy Blythe Goodman posted this list of “10 Mistakes Teens Make on Facebook (and What to Do About It)” on SafteyWeb. The list was compiled by Staci Perkins:
- Not using privacy settings. Not instituting privacy settings on Facebook allows anyone to see your teen’s information – where they attend school, where they live, even where they’ll be and when.
What you can say: Privacy settings are important because they allow your followers to see only what you want them to see. For example, maybe you want Uncle John to view your updates, but not photos. And maybe you want your friends to see your photos, but not friends of friends. Sounds complicated, but it’s relatively simple to set up.
- Letting the world see your profile. Not setting limits on who sees a profile allows anyone to garner information about your child.
What you can say: Explain to your child how often employers use social networking sites to screen applicants. Also explain that what he or she posts online lives in the cyber world forever, even after hitting delete.
- Using your full name. Most kids don’t think twice about potential identity theft or child predators. Using their full names could make kids even more vulnerable to both. As a mom of a tween girl, this is one of the most concerning mistakes.
What you can say: You obviously don’t want to scare your child, but it’s important to make them aware of any potential dangers out there. Tell her this simple change can make you feel a lot better about her safety and it’s a simple thing she can do to protect herself (and keep you off her back).
- Posting inappropriate comments. I’ve seen this first-hand more times than I can count (from my own boys). You don’t even have to be the one to post it – a friend can post something off-color on your page.
What you can say: If this happens, remove the post immediately. And although it will no longer be visible on your child’s page, it may still show up on a friend’s. Have your child talk to his friend about deleting the post entirely.
- Posting inappropriate photos. Even on the Facebook site it says, “unless you’re prepared to attach something in your profile to a resume or scholarship application, don’t post it.” This includes items your friends post too.
What you can say: If a friend has “tagged” you in an inappropriate or unwanted photo, remove the tag right away. It will no longer be linked to your profile. Similar to #4, talk to your friend about deleting it from her account too.
- Friending people you don’t know. As adults, we know who to accept in our network. But teens trying to get the most friends aren’t nearly as choosey.
What you can say: Be sure your teen knows that people he or she isn’t familiar with may pose risks. More and more stories in the news show links between casual social networking acquaintances and burglaries because posts can clue them in on when you’re not home.
- Sharing your account password. According to Facebook, “not even to your best friend or significant other.”
What you can say: Your daughter may think she and her bestie will be buds forever, but we all know how quickly that can change. The last thing your child wants is an enemy with access to her account who has the ability to post as your teen. Tell her to keep account info to herself. You just never know.
- Ignoring unwanted and harassing messages. Unwanted posts can be anything from inappropriate updates to cyber bullying.
What you can say: If your child receives a questionable or threatening post, have him click on the “report message” link and block the user from accessing his profile. He also can limit others from finding him in the Facebook search directory.
- Ignoring controlling behavior from an ex. Yes, your child thought her relationship with Mr. Perfect was going to last forever. It didn’t. Now he’s talking smack all over her page.
What you can say: Never let a current or ex-girlfriend/ex-boyfriend control or stalk your Facebook profile. This could be a sign of abuse. Have your child block the ex entirely, and report any incidents of abuse directly to the social network.
- Ignoring Facebook’s signup policy. “Mom! All of my friends are on Facebook and they’re not 13 yet either!”
What you can say: Facebook requires individuals to be at least 13 years old before they can create an account. Providing false information to create an account is a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. This includes accounts registered on the behalf of under 13-year-old children by older parties. In other words, just say no.
Staci Perkins is a mom of four, ages 9 to 17, and has all of her Facebook privacy settings on.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Social media used by teens is changing their behavior in ways you might not expect. It has been linked to better behavior on usually raucous spring breaks and the delay of a longtime rite of passage, getting a driver's license. Parents are trying to keep up and strike the right balance between restrictions and freedom as they raise a generation of digital natives. Here to help us navigate the tricky online terrain is Amanda Lenhart.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIShe is senior research specialist at the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, where she directs research on young adults, teens, children and families. Amanda Lenhart, thank you for joining us.
MS. AMANDA LENHARTOh, thanks for having me.
NNAMDIAlso joining us in studio is Joseph Viola. Joe Viola is the school psychologist at St. Albans School here in Washington, D.C. and a professor at the George Washington University Professional Psychology Program. Joe Viola, thank you for joining us.
MR. JOSEPH VIOLAThank you.
NNAMDIJoining us from Max Media Studios in Virginia Beach, VA is Sharon Cindrich, parenting columnist and author of books to include, "E-Parenting: Keeping Up With Your Tech-Savvy Kids" and "A Smart Girl's Guide to the Internet," part of the American Girl Library. Sharon Cindrich, thank you for joining us.
MS. SHARON CINDRICHGreat to be here. Thanks.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for us, you can call us at 800-433-8850. How are you prepared or have you prepared your kids and teens for life online? 800-433-8850. Amanda, the number of teens using social media has exploded over the past five years. What do we know about how they're using it?
LENHARTWell, it's incredibly pervasive in teens' lives. So we see about 80 percent of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 are using social media. We've actually really seen quite an explosion on Twitter as well as Facebook. Facebook is the dominant place where teens are today. More than 90 percent of teens who use social media say they have a Facebook profile. But Twitter is starting to catch a bit.
LENHARTWe see about 15 percent of teens using that. And they're doing all sorts of things on the site. So, it's not just posting my status update, but I'm sharing photos, I'm sharing videos, I'm connecting with friends and family.
VIOLAI'm struck, first and foremost, by not just the increase in prevalence in our youth but how prevalent this has become amongst parent bodies as well. So in my role at school, a lot of times I find myself a part of our ongoing parental discussions about how to talk to kids about what exactly social media is, how to normalize kids' interest in it, and to put our heads together about ways to make sure that people are making good decisions.
NNAMDIAmanda, I'll start with you on this. Are there any significant differences when it comes to the gender or socioeconomic background of the teens who are online?
LENHARTSo, overall, we see things are pretty balanced in terms of basic Internet use. We do see a slight, sadly lower number of Latinos who are using the Internet these days. But overall, about 95 percent of youth are using the Internet. And when it comes to social media, we actually see a pretty broad uptake as well. Girls are slightly more likely to use it than boys, but not by a large amount.
LENHARTWe do see big differences in Twitter use and I don't know how much we'll get into that today, where we see girls are much bigger users of Twitter, as are African-American youth who are using it more, three times as likely to use it as white or Latino youth.
NNAMDISharon Cindrich, your observations?
CINDRICHWell, I think that you're absolutely correct. I mean, I think that the youth are definitely using that social media as part of their everyday life. It's a very normal part of their kind of interactions with each other, as well as their parents, as well teachers, coaches, all sorts of other different social groups that they have. And it's not just Facebook and Twitter, but they are actually pushing us all forward.
CINDRICHAnd they're on Tumblr, they're on Pinterest, they're on Google Plus. They're actually really pushing us again to new places. It's not just about keeping up with their current activities on these kind of more established social networks, but actually almost following them and watching how they're using and participating in newer forms of social media as well.
NNAMDIJoe Viola, any observations on differences in terms of gender or socioeconomic background?
VIOLAWell, a lot of what I'm hearing resonates with me in terms of young girls being a bit more interested and willing to dive into what social media has to offer. Those of us that have worked or have girls, you know, that they tend to develop a lot faster, particularly emotionally and as it relates to their self-concept and their interest in thinking about themselves and relationship to other people and how they look and what they're saying and how they're communicating and how they resolve conflict. So, it makes a lot of sense to me that girls would be more interesting in diving in earlier.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is our number if you'd like to join this conversation. Have you noticed that being online or having a cell phone has changed the way a young person in your life behaves? 800-433-8850. You can send us a tweet @kojoshow or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Sharon, I'll start with you this time. Today's kids and teens are so-called digital natives and most parents are digital immigrants. Are the adults keeping up?
CINDRICHI think the adults are keeping up. I actually think, like I said before, I think it's partly due to the guidance of their own teenagers and youth. And we also, while there is that digital divide, we have to recognize that we kind of assume or we kind of designated anyone born after 1980 as that digital native. And that means that the oldest part of that group is going to be 33. Those parents could, you know, potentially have a 15-year-old, a 13-year-old.
CINDRICHThey definitely have kids in school today. And so, while kids are definitely ahead, parents are also becoming a little bit more comfortable, a little bit more familiar. And we're seeing a little bit less of that delineation.
NNAMDIJoe, you talked a little bit about talking to parents about this more than you used to before. How well are the adults keeping up?
VIOLAI think they're certainly -- they're getting there. I would say that a lot adults and a lot of parents are finding the benefits for some of the social media in their professional lives. So, you're seeing a lot of folks reconnecting in ways that their kids are interested in connecting, sharing information with family or folks they haven't seen in a long time. And then in terms of the news, social media tends to democratize a lot of what people are taking in on a daily basis and they have choices to see who they like to read, et cetera.
VIOLASo, I think they're catching up. I think it's happening mostly in the workplace, though. And then of course they're doing their homework outside of work.
LENHARTYeah. I don't want to just also broaden this conversation a little bit because I think your question is really good, but I think we also need to remember that there are plenty of parents who don't actually use the computer or the Internet in their jobs and don't necessarily have the same kind of day-long opportunities to become comfortable with the technology.
LENHARTSo while I do think that there are plenty of parents who are so-called digital natives and who are comfortable with the technology and also plenty of parents who use it themselves for entertainment and use it to get sports scores and things that are of interest to them, there are still plenty of families that don't have good access at home where the parents and family members may be going online on smartphones and cell phones.
LENHARTAnd where the parents just don't simply have the opportunities to become as comfortable as their kids do on the technology. So I think there are, for certain population, some disconnects that still exists between parents and teens.
NNAMDIIs it safe to assume that kids who are digital natives and who have parents who, in their daily lives and their jobs don't necessarily have access to the online environment, is it fairly safe to assume that their kids, especially through the use of mobile devices have much greater access to the online environment than their parents do?
LENHARTThey may. Again, it depends on whether the parent themselves has a mobile device that they use. And we certainly do hear stories about youth service ambassadors into the digital world for their parents, looking up information for them, finding information about anything from forms they need to fill out to, you know, conveying information from the school to their parents when their parents aren't as able or as comfortable being as digital as they are.
NNAMDII read that 80 percent of parents who use social media themselves have friended their child. Is that a good idea, Sharon Cindrich? Should you friend your child on Facebook?
CINDRICHOh, I definitely think you should friend your child. In fact, I think when you're child is first exploring some of these social networks, that should be a requirement. That's why I really recommend that when parents do have an opportunity. You know, we do know that really when it comes to giving guidance, you know, on the Internet and in digital media in general, parents are still the biggest influence when it comes to reminding kids to be safe and smart about their behaviors.
CINDRICHSo, it is really important for you to be connecting when kids start to, you know, enter those kind of social networks. And it allows you, especially if you start early, it allows you to kind of see and learn, you know, what your child's behavior is, but the other children around them. So, I definitely, you know, think it's a good idea because eventually your child may unfriend you. It certainly happened to me. By the time...
NNAMDII was about to ask.
CINDRICHYes. Yes, it was on my daughter's 16th birthday when I decided that I would go ahead and send her a little Facebook happy birthday, but apparently she shared information with her friends. And so I was a little surprised. However, by that time, she had been 13 when she started her Facebook. I have watched her behave. I had been relatively comfortable. And at some point, you have to kind of let them go.
CINDRICHAnd if you have that opportunity early on, you know, kids are much more open to guidance, they're looking for guidance, they're more influenced by parents early. But once they hit that 13, 14, 15-year-old mark, that peer group becomes extremely competitive for their attention and influence on their behaviors that earlier we can kind of friend them and guide them and be a part of their online Internet world, the better it is for everybody.
VIOLAI would also say it introduces a conversation about what exactly friending is. It might very well mean different things to you and your child and some of the others that they're friending online. So, I would agree with all of Sharon's comments and just might also say that before you go ahead and friend your kid, open up the conversation about what exactly that means and what it means if you're unfriended, you know.
NNAMDIWhich allows me to go Gwen in Woodbridge, VA who has a question along these lines. Gwen, you're on the air, go ahead please.
GWENHey, yes, my husband and I, we have a 12-year-old and we have decided up to now not to allow her to have a Facebook account. She's 12. She'll be 13 in August. And I was kind of wondering, you know, I've heard some of the guest has a 13-year who has been using it. What age, you know, I think Facebook did say at one time there's only -- 16 was the minimum age. So, you know, we do want to be a part of it. We do want her to start using it eventually. But when is too early?
LENHARTWell, so, this is Amanda. You know, Gwen, I think there's a law on the books called COPPA, the Child Online Privacy Protection Act, which we won't go into great detail on. But essentially it says that it creates a burden on websites requiring them to get in touch with parents if they want to have any kids under 13 on their site, meaning that they're going to collect personal information about that kid.
LENHARTAnd so because social media collects a ton of information about the kid and asks them to share a lot of information. It means that most of those sites like social media, they actually are -- their age limit is 13 and older. So, that said, you know, our research that about half of 12-year-olds have their own profile on Facebook. And certainly 11-year-olds and 10-year-olds do too. So, because of the way the age restrictions are set up, it's very easy to get around them by just using a different age.
LENHARTSo, certainly a lot of kids do have them at younger ages. But the websites themselves have set up a limit of 13.
NNAMDIJoe, Sharon, I'd like to hear you on this and what kind of conversation would Gwen want to be having with her 12-year-old daughter.
CINDRICHWell, this is Sharon, I would love to chime into that because I think that's a perfect opportunity. I know there are a lot of 10, 11, 12 year olds online. And it's not that particular age could not possibly, relatively, safely use a social media tool like that. However, because that is the law, that that is the requirement of the website, I think it's a really great opportunity for you to follow the rules. I mean, you don't even have to make the unrule, the rule is 13 is required by Facebook as far as starting a profile.
CINDRICHAnd if you do otherwise, you're lying. And I think if we're just talking about parental behavior, you know, that's not what we want to teach our kids to do. So it's a really easy way to say, this is one of the requirements of a website, this is how we participate responsibly. We're not going to, you know, provide inappropriate or information that's not accurate in order to participate. And I think it's a really great way to start again and kind of set those kinds of boundaries.
VIOLAThe conversation that comes to mind for me is, what exactly do you want to put out there about yourself? In other words, what Gwen is hitting on is sort of the perfect storm of a conflict, intention in a lot of these kids that are interested in having a relationship with social media. And as a parent, I would open it up to, "Well, what is it that you want other people to know that they don't already?" Or "Are you just curious, do you just want to see pictures and see how other people are living and why don't we do that together." Right, if you happen to have an account in some way. So I would want to know what exactly they were looking to convey about themselves.
NNAMDIGwen, thank you very much...
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Good luck to you.
GWENThank you so much, great advice.
NNAMDIGoing to take a short break. When we come back, we will continue or conversation on teens and tweens online. If you have already called, stay on the line, we will get to your call. You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow. If you're reluctant to let an eager teen set up a social media profile, let us know what your concerns are as Gwen did. You can also go to our website kojoshow.org, join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about teens and tweens online. We're talking with Joe Viola. He is the school psychologist at St. Albans School here in Washington, D.C., and a professor with the George Washington University, Professional Psychology Program. Amanda Lenhart is a senior research specialist at the Pew Research Centers Internet and American Life Project where she directs research on young adults, teens, children and families. They both join us in our Washington studio. Joining us from Max Media studios in Virginia Beach is Sharon Cindrich.
NNAMDIShe is a parenting columnist and author. Her books include "E-Parenting: Keeping Up With Your Tech-Savvy Kids" and "A Smart Girl's Guide to the Internet," part of the American Girl Library. We got an email from Diane who writes "I have a 14-year-old son who's active on Facebook, but I wouldn't say excessively so. When he got his account at 13, our family rule was that, as parents, we know his password, also to email for spot checking. He did not want the embarrassment of having to friend his mom on Facebook, but he knows that at any time, there could be a spot check to see that he is not posting inappropriate content or photos."
NNAMDI"It has worked well for us so far. One interesting thing I noticed, in the last spot check of his account, his friends that are girls share many, many more photos than do the boys. And I also noticed that many of his friends had accounts that had privacy settings that were wide open, completely public which makes me wonder if the parents need a course on Facebook privacy settings. How are kids manipulating or failing to use them?" I'll start with you,. Sharon Cindrich.
CINDRICHWell, I think that, again, we are talking about, you know, sometimes when kids are setting up the profiles on Facebook, the initial Facebook profile can be public or sometimes it says Friends of Friends. And if kids aren't really kind of thinking about, Public, they could interpret to mean, with their friends. If they are, you know, not really paying attention, it could definitely be set wide open. And you wouldn't really know using it that everyone can see it unless you were another user or you were someone else trying to access that.
CINDRICHAnd if the parents aren't involved in, like Amanda said, there definitely is a significant portion of parents that are not involved, that do not check, that maybe had a conversation but, you know, didn't follow up with it or that don't even know their children have these kinds of accounts. And so it would be very easy for a kid to have an account that is wide open.
CINDRICHIt seems more and more that kids are more, kind of, aware of their privacy and the risks that, you know, they could encounter if things weren't private. But it certainly is still an issue as far as making sure kids have those privacy settings. And, you know, a lot of times, the privacy settings are also very specific. You can have a different privacy setting for maybe your Wall as you can for your Photos. So there are a lot of choices to make when setting that up.
NNAMDIAmanda Lenhart, how about the gender distinction that our emailer makes between who posts more photos then whom, which gender?
LENHARTYou know, we certainly see about 80 percent of kids are posting photos on social media. It's a hugely popular activity. You know, there are, I think, slight differences in that girls are posting a little bit more but it's not enormous. I think what may be different is in terms of visibility of those photos. And, you know, I think to follow up on some of Sharon's points, you know, about 2/3 of kids actually do have private profiles but another 1/3 have profiles that are in some ways a little bit more private, so visible beyond just their network of friends.
LENHARTAnd so I think kids are generally understanding what's going on, but as Sharon points out, the privacy settings are very complicated. And there's a lot of fine grain opportunity to really, you know, make on -- you know, to share little bits of information in different places. But that can actually mean an enormous number of little boxes you need to check and places you need to look. And I think it's asking a lot of adults and kids to know exactly how to set up those privacy settings.
NNAMDI800-433-8850, how have you prepared your kids and teens for life online, 800-433-8850? Joe Viola, some older digital natives and early tech adopters are having kids, even as we speak, how will that change things in the next five or 10 years?
VIOLAThat's a great question. I think one of the things that won't change as it relates to the topic that we were just getting into is the question of knowing who you're talking to, right. I think this is a place, I mean, Sharon hits on it in her books, Amanda was just talking a bit about it as well, but the question is for our kids and for parents, how do we help the kids realize who exactly they're speaking to at all times as it relates to privacy settings and the like? Where it's going is fairly fascinating. I know that there were a few things that prompted this discussion today.
VIOLAI think one of the things, again this is more anecdotally that I'm seeing, is that kids are really leading very active social lives electronically and are accelerating and bursting onto a social scene that they're emotionally not quite ready for, right. That trend, I think, will continue. In a lot of ways, this has been happening for many years, which is that, you know, kids are getting older at younger ages, right.
VIOLAThey're immersing themselves in more adult activities, whether other at-risk -- other risky behaviors, substance use and the like. Social media, not surprisingly, has been, you know, the focus of a lot of research that looks at non-substance based addictions, right, and the like. So, it's something to be mindful of, right. That it's going to have an impact on the ways that kids enter into social relationships, intimate relationships and otherwise, so.
NNAMDIOnto the telephones again. Here is David, in Washington, D.C. David, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVIDHi, my question pertains to a statement that was made earlier, that there are more young ladies then young men. The first question is, does that different in the number of words used by females versus males persist and then, two, is there a difference in, say, the development with those few social media versus those who don't? And I'll take my response off the air.
NNAMDIFirst, for you, Sharon. The difference in the number of words used by young women as opposed to young men, what does that say to you?
CINDRICHWell, I think it we'd just look basically at girls and boys in general, you kind of picture, kind of, the very generalized version of some adolescent girls and adolescent boys. You're, you know, girls tend to be, in general, more social creatures, they talk more. Girls -- guys talk, you know, and these are obviously generalizations. So it wouldn't be unusual to see that same thing reflected on a social network. And I think a lot of things we do see on social networks are reflections of what's happening at the lunch table and in the school yards.
CINDRICHThe difference is, that we haven't always been able to see some of these things, we're not at the lunch table with them, we're not in the, you know, at the sleepover. And so we're seeing a lot things that, even though, we might know a little bit about, we're seeing it even more intensely. So I don't think it would be unusual that you would notice that. You know, girls are going to write more, they may post more. Again, as Amanda mentioned, it's not maybe a huge discrepancy but there may be some differences.
NNAMDIAmanda, talk a little bit about the second part of the question, whether or not participation in social media affects development in any way.
LENHARTWell, you know, I think certainly our sense is that, you know, these sites are amazing places for all kinds of interaction and experimentation. So, you know, you can explore different facets of your identity, you can be different people to different people depending on how you privacy settings set up and depending on which social media sites you're using. You could be a different person on Twitter then you are on Facebook. But that said, you know, my general approach overall in thinking about technology and youth and having looked at this for, gosh, 12, 13 years now, is that generally technology is a vehicle for things that teens have been doing since time immemorial.
LENHARTThat, you know, that a lot of these explorations of identity, these opportunities for sharing and connecting with other people are things that teens have wanted to and have enjoyed doing and that technology broadens the opportunity. As Sharon says, it makes it more visible and it makes it more persistent. Certainly, the things you do hang around a lot more than, you know, what you did at the football game.
LENHARTWhen you post it on Facebook, it sticks around for years and years. So I think there's a little bit more persistence and some, I think, some delicate lines to walk in terms of thinking about some of the choices and the experimentation that you're going to do. But that really these sites are just a kind of a new playground for exploring yourself, but that the kinds of exploration and the kinds of things that are happening are not different.
VIOLAYeah, I totally agree. I would just add to that, that I think that the immediacy of feedback from social media is something that invites another kind of dialogue with a parent and a child, which is that, it could really contribute to a very narrow or linear way of thinking about relationships which we all know are quite complex and are difficult to make decisions about. So it's the immediacy, in my opinion, sort of the linear way of thinking that kids come to think about relationships that even though these opportunities for exploration of identity are familiar to us, I think it invites a different conversation to the fold.
NNAMDIAre you a plugged in teen or 20-something? Call us 800-433-8850. Let us know how the adults in your life shaped the way you handle technology, 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. Here is Sara or Sarah in Falls Church, Va. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SARAHHi, Kojo. I guess I wanted to bring up another danger of this online social media networking for teens. I know that we've been talking about photos and that sort of thing. But recently I was made aware of a sort of online campaign to get some young girls, I think, and young boys off of Twitter and Facebook who had expressed dismay of some of the casting and the "Hunger Games" based on race, which is written in the book.
SARAHAnd immediately my reaction was, oh, my gosh, I can't believe these kids said that. But then I thought, oh, my gosh, these are young kids that don't realize that what they're saying is public and that there were thousands of people that tried to run them off these social networking sites because of what they said. And I guess that's just another thing to consider that can be really dangerous that they don't think about.
NNAMDISharon Cindrich, care to comment?
CINDRICHYeah. I think that that's absolutely does happen and that's something that we know, you know, adolescents can be impulsive, they can be very egocentric, they cannot recognize, kind of the reach of their comments or the impact of their comments. And that is part of what the experience that they're going to learn and take with them, moving forward. You know, we as parents, want to try, of course, to, you know, guide them, to make them aware, you know, of how far things can go. And but those kinds of incidences definitely do happen and the kind of, you know, the repercussions of that can be very serious and long lasting.
CINDRICHMost of the time, I think, again, if we talk in generalizations, the majority of kids don't have that severe of an experience, however they have something similar whether they said something about someone in their class or a teacher in their school. And they learn quickly about that kind of impact. And that is kind of our 21st century, that's some of that learning and using the technologies is part of how we are shaping the behaviors that these kids are going to carry on with them.
NNAMDIWell, Joe, emotional stress is scary enough but when you hear about the kind of situation that Sarah talked about and then you use your imagination a little bit, there are also online predators to be weary of. How do you walk the line of teaching kids to be cautious without completely scaring them off?
VIOLAGood question. I guess I would say that, first and foremost, as it relates to Sharon's previous point that I was just struck with this idea of how powerful it is to give something a voice. And when you do that in a face to face encounter, it's very different. You feel very different physically, you're able to see someone react to you, right, in a way that sort of provides non-verbal communication and cues you into what's going on. Online that's very different. And the example that was just given about the "Hunger Games" in particular was making me think about the dangers of having a platform to give something a voice, right.
VIOLAIt's sort of the, a decade ago, the equivalent of hitting "reply all" by mistake, which we've all done. As it relates specifically though to online predators, I would say, first and foremost, it needs to be a collaborative and -- social media to be a collaborative enterprise with parents in the beginning. We need -- you need to know a bit about, first of all, privacy settings and who you're speaking to and who you're letting into see elements of who you are because it can ultimately come back to be used again you in a lot of ways. So for all the positive elements of sharing and connectivity, being collaborative and helping people understand the dangers of not knowing the whole picture at first, I think would be a place to start.
NNAMDIThank you for your call Sarah. Onto Alex in Winchester, W.V. Alex, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ALEXHi, thanks for taking my call. I really don't disagree with anything that you guys are saying. I just wanted to sort of share a positive story of a younger child on Facebook.
ALEXI think that the internet, in general, can be so destructive, not just Facebook. I mean, I have my kids check with me before they do a Google search because you really don't know what's going to come up. And so my daughter was in private school and we switched to public school right from middle school. And all of her new friends had Facebook and she was 12, she wanted it. I said, no way. She harped and harped for a few days and I sat down with her and we created an account.
ALEXAnd I made it as safe and secure as possible, meaning that, even if somebody types in her correct name, she still won't come up, it still won't come up. And anything that she shares, it's only her friends that can see it. And so I felt really bad about it and I felt like I was a bad parent. I went on with her to check it the next day and she had 10 friend requests from my friends and family. And it sort of made me feel a lot better. I also, I'm a friend with her on Facebook, and I go on there. I can see her photos.
ALEXShe needs to be reminded every once in a while that everybody can see anything that she says and any photo that she puts up, but I will go on, I will correct her spelling, we will share things with each other. I think that in a way, Facebook is made for this brain, this middle school brain, because all of the stupid quizzes, you know, and all of the fake life things that I don't have time for, I don't have time for any of it, but they do, and they connect with each other. So I think that the key really is connecting with your child, communicating with your child and sharing it with them, rather than just, you know, signing them on and letting them have free rein.
NNAMDIThank you for sharing that story with us, Alex. Brings anything to mind for you, Amanda Lenhart?
LENHARTI think Alex actually makes a really good point about the ways in which Facebook isn't even just about friends. It's actually about family and connecting to family as well, and also, I really think she -- want to highlight the protective power of that. So, you know, for, you know, as parents you may want to friend your child, but even if you don't, if you know that your child is actually friends by aunts and sisters and cousins, you know that there's actually a network of concerned adults and older people who are watching out for that person, and I think that's actually a really powerful tool, and that it does -- it allows the village in some ways to help you raise your digital child, and to do that online.
NNAMDIThank you very...
NNAMDIGo ahead, please, Sharon.
CINDRICHI wondered if I could interject really quickly.
CINDRICHI also wanted to note again, I mean, I absolutely agree. I think when we talk about social network, there's so many positives and we can tend to harp on like the fears and the cons, but there are so many positives about it. And I just wanted to add to the caller that there also are other social networks -- because social networking is really a skill that I think our kids are learning. There are social networks that are designed for kids younger than 13. One that comes -- Your Sphere is one that comes to mind. Togetherville is another one, Club Penguin is another form of social networking, What's What.
CINDRICHThere are a variety of social networks. Often we see kids who even are 13 and they have siblings who want to get online, or they want their own little neighborhood, and there are definitely social network sites designed for younger kids that not only are fun and help them connect with friends and family, but also teach them those skills. So I just wanted to add that.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, if you have called stay on the line, we will get to your call, but you can still call. We have lines busy at 800-433-8850. Do you think teens and tweens should be social networks? Why or why not? 800-433-8850, or go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're discussing teens and tweens online with Sharon Cindrich. She's a parenting columnist and author. Her books include, "E-Parenting: Keeping Up With Your Tech Savvy Kids," and "A Smart Girl's Guide to the Internet," part of the American Girl library. Amanda Lenhart is a senior research specialist at the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project. There she directs research on young adults, teens, children and families, and Joe Viola is the school psychologist at St. Alban School here in Washington D.C., and a professor with the George Washington University Professional Psychology Program. Joe, kids spends most of their day in school. How are teachers and how are administrators handling this?
DR. JOSEPH VIOLAIt's interesting. I would say about four or five years ago there was much more open discourse in the school amongst administrators and teachers about the potential dangers of social media like Facebook throughout the day. I would say by and large that not only has it been embraced at the institutional level, but we're actually seeing a lot of great benefits of social media in the class room, for what it's worth. So, you know, there are always abuses of social media as you'll have at any school during the school day.
DR. JOSEPH VIOLAKids doing things they're not supposed to, but pedagogically, I think social media is actually doing a lot of great things for teachers, and it's helping bring the classroom outside of the classroom in a lot of ways, and it's bringing a lot of great things to life I would say.
LENHARTWell, you know, I wonder, Joe, how much being in a private school environment is allowing you guys to be more open, because certainly what we hear in more of a public school environment is that often somebody is blocked in the school, and that most administrators and teachers we talk to, while they would like to be able to harness the enthusiasm that teens bring to social media...
LENHART...often find that what they end up dealing with is, you know, this drama that starts on social media and then flows into the school day and then flows back onto social media, and I think that's I think what they are forced to deal with more often, and certainly different schools have different approaches, but I -- it sounds like St. Alban's has a really wonderful and open approach, but I do think a lot of other teachers and administrators end up having to deal with more of a whack a mole like case by case I've got to deal with this.
NNAMDISharon Cindrich, what's you're thinking on this?
CINDRICHYeah. I have to agree with Amanda. I mean, it sounds like, you know, I absolutely agree that there are so many benefits. I think it's very important that social media can play an incredible role in education, but I do think that as public schools really struggle with how they can manage all of that, I know I actually work with the public schools. Facebook is not only blocked for students, it's blocked for teachers and administrators, very carefully, as are other social networks, even things like Pinterest.
CINDRICHSo we're talking about some struggles I think that I think the school system is really having a hard time. While I think they've embraced a lot of different technologies, I still think when it comes to the Internet, they are reluctant and they're not quite sure how to manage those resources. So I definitely think it's a challenge for schools.
NNAMDIHere's Patrick in Manassas, Va. Patrick, your turn. Patrick, are you there?
PATRICKOh, yes. Yes, of course. I thought I heard my name. Well, glad to be on the air. Yeah. As I was telling the nice lady who picked up the phone, I've been on social networks for quite a while. I'm 21 now. I got a MySpace when I was 14, and I just think a little off-topic, well, really off topic with the way that school teacher and administrators work with social networks. It's kind of a few steps back in the conversation, but I remember whenever I got on the social networks, it almost became a source of affirmation for me.
PATRICKYou know, I would put a picture up, I would post a song or whatever, and based on the responses I would get from my friends on MySpace or Facebook, or whatever social network I was on, I would almost -- I almost began basing my self-worth off it, and actually a good number of my friends had the same experience, and for that reason we all basically just cut back on social networking all together, kind of got away from it for a few years there, learned how to not be basing our self-worth, our self-esteem off of the response that we were getting on our posts and our pictures, and then kind of returned to it later once we had matured a little bit.
NNAMDIGood issue that you raise. Amanda, online bullying, if we take an extension of the self-esteem issue that Patrick talked about a little farther, online bullying is a big concern, and obviously that has a great deal to do with self-esteem and fear. What is the general tone among kids online, and what are some of the psychological consequences if they find themselves well, in over their heads?
LENHARTWell, you know, certainly what we found in our most recent study was that most teens actually find the social media to be a positive place where people are generally kind to one another. That said, there's about 20 percent of kids who don't feel that way and greater percentages of middle school girls and African-American youth are likely to say that it's not a kind space. So I do think that's the sense of affirmation that our caller is talking about is something that a lot of teens certainly feel, that it is a reasonably positive place where, you know, where teens are saying they have positive experiences.
LENHARTBut that said, we also found out that 88 percent of teens have witnessed other people being mean and cruel in these social spaces, and about 15 percent say that they themselves have experienced that cruelty directly.
NNAMDIAnd younger girls and African American students seem to be overrepresented in that group of people.
LENHARTCertainly in the sense of the online climate, of it being a kind space. Interestingly, they're not more represented in those who say they are being directly attacked. So it's certainly I think more about perception and perceived climate around you than your own direct experiences for some of those differences.
VIOLAI appreciate Patrick's point quite a bit actually. Before the break, and it related to an earlier caller's point, we heard the expression that social media was made for this brain, and the caller was referring to middle school students.
VIOLAI was thinking about sort of entrance into high school. I like the idea of revisiting and reconnecting with social media as you age, and I don't know a lot about this particular area of research, but I'm inclined to think that like most things, adolescents interest in social media kind of waxes and wanes, and it -- I'm guessing that as they're forced into various social encounters in the early stages of college that you'll see some of it drop a little bit, although I'm not a hundred percent sure.
NNAMDISharon, with so many kids and adults using social media and texting, have we arrived at some sort of tipping point after which forbidding your kids from joining Facebook or having a cell phone ultimately does more harm than good?
CINDRICHI do believe that is the case. I think that every parent has a, you know, has a decision to make as far as what they think is right for their child, and I also think that every child is different, and so a parent needs to be very careful, even if the, you know, the requirement for a social site is 13, you may not believe that your child is ready for that even though most middle schoolers may be getting their first cell phone, you might not decide that it's right for your child, and I think ever parent really has to know their child, and has to work with their child to make those decisions.
CINDRICHThat said, I do believe that cell phones, and the Internet, and social media, and social networking, that is a part of a student's and a person's 21st century skill set, and I think that in order to be -- to, you know, do well in their future, to -- in education, in their social relationships, they do need some of those skills, and I think that again, the earlier you start, I actually believe that the earlier you start introducing those things in an extremely supervised way, and make it not taboo, but something that you have to learn to do.
CINDRICHYou know, I often say it's similar to driving a car. We know that driving a car is the most dangerous thing a person can do, but we don't tell kids they can never drive a car. We start from the time they are born and we buckle them in, and we spend 16 years before we allow them to get a driver's license, teaching them and pointing out dangers and talking about responsible behavior and little by little by little we know that they're going to need that car in order to be successful, and so I think we have to do the exact same thing with technology.
NNAMDIAmanda, what does this all mean for kids who cannot participate either because their parents forbid it, or because they can't afford the technology required to connect?
LENHARTWell, it's certainly a difficult situation for them. I mean, there are many kids who find other way to have these connections. In some cases it might be through eking out a connection to social media or to a place through your mobile phone, and using whatever you have access to make those connections. And in other cases, you know, certainly kids I think are resourceful. They find ways to spend time with their friends and ways to connect with people in person an on the telephone using that old ancient device, the landline phone.
LENHARTAnd so, you know, certainly, you know, I think kids who don't have access -- and kids also lose access for various reasons. They lose privileges as a punishment, they lose their phone and are suddenly knocked offline, so, you know, they find ways. But I do think it's a hardship for many kids who can't have that kind of robust relationship, and sort of social experience that teens are now having in these digital spaces.
NNAMDIHere is Bruce in Severna Park, Md. Bruce, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BRUCEHi there. Yeah. I wanted to speak to the positive aspects of social media and specifically my granddaughter's experience. She's 10 years old. She actually started creating stories online with friends where she would start a story and they would add to it, and I thought that was a kind of creative outlet for her, and she would also post pictures, unusual pictures that she would take and create. So I was a little apprehensive at first, but it's turned out to be very positive for her.
NNAMDIThere's a whole genre of literature -- the mash up genre of literature that your granddaughter is an early adopter of at this point.
NNAMDIYes. Because that's happening a lot. Amanda Lenhart?
LENHARTYou know, I really like Bruce's story because there's a lot of wonderful things about the opportunity to share. I mean, it's what Joe was saying about giving a voice. Sometimes that has negative consequences, but a lot of times, particularly when the environment is relatively controlled and when parents are involved, it's this wonderful opportunity for young people to share things that they've created.
LENHARTI mean, certainly I know a young woman who has a blog where she shares art that she makes with family and friends, and, you know, I think these connective, creative technologies really do offer a lot of ways to stimulate kids, and to give them a chance to feel good about the work and the things that they do and create.
NNAMDIHere's Lee in Manassas, Va. Lee, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LEEGood afternoon, Kojo.
LEEYes. Yes. I was calling -- I work with Boy Scouts when they do their Eagle Scout projects.
LEEI've noticed in the last four or five years that most of the boys have no idea how to speak to a person because all their experiences is virtual. A majority of their experience...
NNAMDIWell, let's why they have the Boy Scouts. But go ahead, please, Lee.
LEEIt's pretty alarming, though, when you talk to kids and they don't how to -- they don't know how to communicate back with a real person. So that's (unintelligible) .
NNAMDIJoe Viola, that is a comment that we have received quite a lot on this broadcast...
NNAMDI...when we have talked about social networks.
VIOLAIt's true. I mean, the issue of whether it's doing more harm than good I think is an interesting question. Sometimes I wonder how relevant it is, because it's so prevalent, right? I mean, it's here. Kids will find a way, whatever way they can to be a part of that world, but...
NNAMDIBut is it true that it does inhibit or adversely affect face-to-face communication?
VIOLAI think it can for sure. I mean, I think that especially if kids are starting in that middle school -- during that middle school age of 11, 12, or 13, before they've had a lot of opportunity communicating face to face with new people, right? More often than not, they're very in...
NNAMDIUnderscores, therefore, the responsibility of parents to make sure...
NNAMDI...that there is a mix of activity.
NNAMDIAnd I say that because, well, we're out of time. Joseph Viola is the school psychologist at St. Alban School in Washington D.C., and a professor with the George Washington University Professional Psychology Program. Thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIAmanda Lenhart is a senior research specialist at the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project. She directs research on young adults, teens, children and families. Thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIAnd Sharon Cindrich is a parenting columnist and author. Her books include, "E-Parenting: Keeping Up With Your Tech Savvy Kids," and "A Smart Girl's Guide to the Internet." Thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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