Technology Safety and Your Teen

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Changing Technology Poses Risks to Teens

By Michael Babler,??Director of Instructional Technology, Divine Savior Academy

You would have to search pretty hard to find someone who would argue against the advantages that technology brings into our lives. ??And with each new evolution in the technological world come new features to enhance our lives. ??But the same technology that brings all these benefits, also poses many risks – to our privacy, our safety, and our future. ??Those who are most at risk are young people, those who are still learning how to become independent and make decisions that will positively affect their futures.

A recent study by Common Sense Media gives us the following facts about teenagers and their use of technology:

  • More than 2/3 of teens have a smartphone
  • Teens use their smartphones for 4.5+ hours per day, on average
  • On any given day, 6 in 10 teens use social media
  • Teens spend an average of 2 hours on social media

With the spread of technology, and especially mobile devices, we are seeing more use, naturally, among teenagers, as well. ??But there are problems that come along with this. ??In the same study, 50% of teenagers reported that they ???often??? or ???sometimes??? use social media while doing homework. ??And more concerning – 31% say using social media during homework ???mainly hurts the quality of their work.??? ??Additionally, in a separate study from Seton Hall University, researchers found that over 60% of teens use their smartphones in some way after bedtime – ??57% texted/tweeted/messaged while in bed, and 21% awoke to texts. ??Also, 25% of teens reported inadequate sleep (less than 6 hours per night). ??This use of technology has obvious negative correlations: poor academic performance, shorter sleep duration, insomnia, and daytime sleepiness.

Perhaps the most startling statistic to come from the Common Sense Media report is that 1/3 of teens say their parents know ???only a little??? or ???nothing??? about what they do on social media. ??Today???s teenagers face a lot of pressures online. ??One of the most discussed aspects in the media recently has been sexting. ??Sexting is defined as sending or receiving messages that sexual in nature, and may or may not include nude, or partially-nude images. ??A recent study of nearly 1,000 high schoolers in Texas revealed that 28% of teens had sent a nude image, and 57% had been asked to send one. ??In November 2015, a high school in Ca??on City, CO was rocked by a sexting ring where 100 students were sharing 300-400 photos. ??In many cases, these photos were being hidden on student devices through the use of vault apps – apps that look normal on the face, like a calculator, but store hidden information behind a passcode.

In addition to fake calculator and photo vault apps, there are a number of other apps that result in negative experiences for teenagers. ??Most of these apps offer anonymity, which gives teens a stronger sense of confidence in posting messages or photos that they normally wouldn???t post. ??This is compounded by the fact that many people feel their posts can???t be traced back to them. In reality, once something is posted online or through social media, you can???t control what happens to it. ??Some of these apps that should be avoided are: AfterSchool, Ask.fm, BurnBook, Kik, Omegle, Secret, StreetChat, Whats Goodly, Whisper, YikYak, and YouNow.

All of this paints a scary picture for our teenagers. ??How can parents help keep their teens safe?

  • Be involved. ??Follow your child???s activity on social media. ??Ask about their interactions with others online.
  • Set limits. ??Teenagers don???t need 24/7 access to mobile devices and the Internet. ??Set times when phones are off like dinner and bedtime.
  • Use built-in controls. ??Apple offers a feature called Family Sharing where you can turn on Ask to Buy so teens need permission to download apps. ??You can also set up restrictions on the device to place limits on content and features. ??On Android devices you can set up the Parental Controls to limit what content is available.
  • Monitor, guide, and teach. ??There are services like My Mobile Watchdog, Teen Safe, and Oxbow that allow parents to keep a closer eye on what their children are doing with their devices. ??Use the opportunities provided to teach teenagers how to make good decisions that will positively affect their futures.

Becoming aware of your child???s use of social media and mobile devices will help them grow into responsible decision-makers who can avoid the pitfalls of negative experiences online. ??The biggest thing parents can do is be involved.

Below are slides from a presentation given on this topic at Divine Savior Academy on January 25.

Dana Kirchoff
Dana Kirchoff
Dana Kirchoff is the Director of Communications at Divine Savior Academy.