Whether the parents are first-timers or experienced, the struggle of balancing teenagers and their social media presence is a challenge.
Most experts agree there’s some benefit to social media, whether it’s connecting with family and friends, or advertising and branding a locally-owned business. But without proper supervision, social media can become too much for teenagers and younger kids, and can cause their grades in school to suffer, or lead them to run afoul of the law.
Tahlequah Police Chief Nate King, who also has teenaged kids, said parents can take steps to ensure their children are being smart — and most importantly, safe — when they’re online.
“I’m not talking as a police chief, but as a parent. I want to know, and I’m going to have a say in what social media accounts my kids do have [when they] are under the age of 18,” said King.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a 2018 Pew Research Center survey of 750 13- to 27-year-olds found that 45 percent are constantly online, and 97 percent are using social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat.
While the majority of parents believe they know what their children are posting on social media, a survey of teens found that 70 percent of them are hiding their online behavior from their parents, said Newport Academy.
King said certain social media platforms are set up in a way that not much good can come from them — especially for kids.
“TikTok and Snapchat — I think the problem with a lot of social media is that regardless of someone’s age, people don’t fear consequences on those platforms. They’re protected by the screen and they’re not looking at someone in the eye when they do something,” he said.
Nineteen-year-old Jeremiah Hames has social media accounts on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. He said he spends most of his time on his Instagram page to promote skateboarding.
“It helps me gain followers in skateboarding and that’s why I use it the most,” said Hames. “Snapchat is a good way to get ahold of people if you don’t have their [phone] number, and more people nowadays are saying, ‘Add me on Snap.'”
As for parents of teenagers, King said having access to their children’s social media accounts isn’t a wrong move.
“In the end, good kids do bad things, and it doesn’t make them bad kids. You can trust your kids and still check up on their social media,” said King.
Other tools parents can use are apps specifically designed to track their kids’ social media movement, or their movement in general. Life360 is a location-sharing app that lets parents, kids and friends share their location at all times.
“I think it’s a good step for safety, if nothing else, to know where your kids are, how fast they’re driving. You can set up Life360 to where you can even get notices when they exceed a certain speed limit, and you can set boundaries. If they exceed those boundaries, it’s going to tell you, and I think that’s a good thing,” said King.
King said adults should limit their time on smartphones, just as much as teenagers should.
“We as a society have become so attached to our cell phones. [We should be] limiting that time and having family time, where you actually talk and interact with your family, and it’s so easy to get lost in your phone,” he said.
Reverting to his role as police chief, King said parents need to contact law enforcement if a criminal act has been committed, either by their children or others with whom they’re interacting.
“Whether it be an adult contacting your child and attempting to get them to perform lewd or indecent acts, or threats made via electronic device, if you think you found an infraction of the law, give us a call,” he said.