Image credit: Vanity Fair

This year, 81 percent of Internet-using teenagers in America reported that they are active on social-networking sites, more than ever before. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and new dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, and Blendr have increasingly become key players in social interactions, both online and IRL (in real life). – Vanity Fair article Friends Without Benefits

I must say, after reading this article, which is very long — but worth the time, my initial response was, “thank God my kids are grown now.”  I truly feel for parents that are raising kids in today’s digital world.

On the flip-side this article also re-iterates the fact that parents need to be involved in their child’s life more than ever.  Yes, we know that especially teenagers can put walls up, and if you can’t break them down, find a mentor or someone they are willing to share things with.

Let’s go to page 3 of this article.

FOMOFear of missing out….. a 17-year-old girl, who was tormented, bullied by girls when she was younger – to a point where she changed schools, realizes these girls are now the “cool-girls” and friends them on Facebook.  After-all – it is about social-status or as they say, social climbing in social media.  This is the mind of many teenagers remember.

When does this end or where does it end or does it end?

The Internet isn’t going away and trying to keep your kids away from it will not resolve the problem.  Talking to our teens can land on deaf ears — so why not sit down and show them examples of some of the risks online? Show them stories of identity theft, Internet predators, people that thought it could never happen to them, all these stories are an Internet search away.  Unfortunately there are many to be found.

Whenever there is a news story about a cyber-scam, discuss it.  As tragic as some of these stories are, they are also opportunities to have conversations.

Teens, especially, need to see it rather than hear it.

In many ways the social media climbing parade is a way for a teen to build their self-esteem – help them feel good about themselves.  This is typical for many teens even before social media — and with this I have always encouraged parents to find their child’s passion and build on it.

If they have an outlet, besides social media, such as a sport, music, arts, hobbies, or something they are passionate about…. they are less likely to be looking for acceptance in these cyberspaces.  Make every effort to get them involved in outside activities!

Another way to help build self-confidence is giving back. Community service is a great way to feel good about yourself.  Encourage your teen to volunteer at a local animal shelter, maybe a nursing home on weekends.  If they don’t have a job, making their own income can help them to feel good about themselves too.

I am not saying that our kids can’t be involved in social media, they need to find their healthy balance and know the boundaries.

Parents also need to remember, you are their social media role model.

Be an educated parent, you will have safer teens – online and off.