Managing teens' and tweens' social-media use

For The Baltimore Sun

From Liz Atwood: I can’t believe I’ve come to the point where I actually would like to see the kids wasting their time playing video games.  What has driven me to this drastic change? Lately the kids have taken to wasting their time texting friends and posting pictures on Instagram and Twitter.

Their new preoccupation with social media sets up a whole new challenge. In the past, I only needed to look at the rating on a game box to get a sense of whether the content was inappropriate. Now I have to worry about what they and their friends are saying to each other online.

I teach social media to college kids, so I should be out in front on this. But the truth is, the kids are discovering new ways of communicating faster than I can keep track of it all. And while they quickly learn the technology, they are slow to learn the implications of what they post.
I've already had to give severe warnings to my tween about online bullying and writing inappropriate texts. Then I looked at the tweets my college students were posting and I realized they, too, need a lesson in discretion.

Help for parents is out there. The internet is full of advice for how to put parental controls on TVs, computers and mobile devices. But do a search for how to block inappropriate content and you’ll see just as many sites giving tips for how to break through those controls. It reminds me of the challenge of building a strong prison when all the prisoners have to do is all day is figure a way out.

I'm not sure what the solution is. But I'm hoping that real and honest conversation will help provide parental controls that won’t be so easily hacked.

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