Are you kids over sharing in social media?

Hilary Smith

This article, entitled "Are you kids over sharing in social media?" comes from MomsEveryday contributor Hilary Smith.

Are your kids sharing too much about themselves when they’re visiting social media? Even if they think they’ve got everything under control, it’s very possible that they’re telling the entire world things that should be kept private.

What are teens doing on Social Media?

That depends on who they are. In a recent study on teens’ use of technology, the Pew Research Center observed several important details about what they’re doing.

According to this study, about 92% of all teens go online at least daily - with the huge majority going online either several times a day or almost constantly. Most of these teens are going to Facebook, which (despite rumors to the contrary) remains one of the most popular and heavily-used platforms.

However, part of Facebook’s popularity is the mere fact that “everyone” uses it. Teens may also be connecting with their family or various interest groups, and it’s where they go besides Facebook that really says something about them.

Upper-class teens, particularly girls, tend to focus on visual networks like Instagram and Snapchat. These networks allow them to share their life in photos, rather than text, and quite a lot of effort goes into curating each picture they post so it reflect the person they want to be seen as.

Boys in general are more likely to stick with Facebook - or play games, as the often-competitive nature of gaming generally appeals to this demographic.

What are they sharing?

Teens are sharing… well, practically everything. Political views, relationship status, emotional status, who they like, where they’re eating… in a very literal way, teens are learning to document and record their lives in a way that’s easy for others to search and reference.

Furthermore, many teens don’t realize just how permanent many of their comments are - and when they’re emotionally invested in something, they usually don’t stop to think about how that statement could hurt them years down the road.

Social media isn’t just a snapshot of who they are - it’s a story of who they’ve been.

Why is this so dangerous?

It’s true that social media can be fun - unless it’s deliberately not being fun, anyway. The key detail to understand here is that teens who put all of their emotions online are also affected more by what goes on in the digital world - and that tends to make them easy prey for online predators, bullies, and other individuals who are only interested in hurting them.

Picture this scenario - a young teenage girl, perhaps even your own daughter, is a regular user of Facebook. She updates her profile when there’s a change in her life, shares stories of her life, and regularly posts selfies she’s taken with a smartphone.

Unfortunately for her, her entire profile is public because she never bothered to properly adjust her settings. It’s here that a predator first takes note of her and assesses her personality, then begins crafting a persona to appeal to her. After all, people can pretend to be anyone online, and if they express sympathy whenever the girl is feeling down, it’s not hard to make friends and become an increasingly important part of her life.

Now, you might be thinking that your child knows better than to go meet with stranger or give out all of their personal information - but think again. Even if you’ve talked with them about it, even if they recognize the dangers, they’re still vulnerable to these sorts of manipulative tactics.

What can you do?

Teens often don’t realize how much information they’re making available online - so it’s up to you to educate them. Don’t just talk with them one time, though. Instead, try to make guarding their privacy into a habit, so they don’t even have to think in order to do the right thing.

The good news is that it really is just a phase they’re going through. Teens may be impulsive and prone to making bad decisions whenever they’re focused on having fun, but that’s because their brains have literally not developed good decision-making abilities. The older they get, the easier it is for them to do the right thing, especially if you continue to encourage them.

Oversharing is a real danger, but it’s also easy to control - so talk to your teen about this today and help them avoid posting things they’ll one day regret.

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