The older you become, the more you recognize intelligence in your parents. Thus the saying, “Teens, leave home while you still know everything.”
Current tech challenges parents to stay one step ahead, as teens and social media can be a dangerous combination. Const. Bryan Alm, school resource officer for Archbishop O’Leary High School, advises parents to be “educated on how various apps work so that their kids aren’t meeting strangers on apps like Instagram and Snapchat.”
Alm has been with Archbishop O’Leary for four years. “Encourage your kids only to add contacts they know. There are fake people misrepresenting who they are.” Parents, be advised that most people on those apps don’t use their real names. “Sit down with the kids once a month. Go through each contact one by one. If they don’t personally know the people, delete them.”
This might seem harsh, but the kids establish prestige by having the most followers on social media, so parents, “Expect some pushback.” Encourage youth to have a private account. Though people can still follow them, the unknowns can’t directly message your teen unless the teen accepts the message request. Adults can bamboozle youth, as they often “misrepresent who they are.” Alm also advises adults and youth alike against “meeting anyone off the Internet.”
A vital precaution is to enforce and “encourage set times to use their phones, disallow devices in the bedroom because they miss out on sleep. Plus it builds addictive behaviour.”
Cyberbullying is a real challenge. Currently, anti-bullying resources at Archbishop O’Leary carry out more conversations about in-person bullying. For the former, parents should be aware that if their teen is in a group chat they could be singled out forsaying something on the app they would never say in person or in front of a parent or teacher. “The next day, the teen can imagine all the kids are talking about him or her.”
Monitoring your teen’s interactions on the apps can help catch suspicious behaviour early on. Advising kids to report the abuse is Alm’s preference. Though, “it is more realistic to unpack underlying issues because they probably won’t snitch.” Some youth can avoid bullying or stop it in its tracks through snappy comebacks. If they can’t do that verbally, saying their retorts internally can help undo some of the damage.
If you can get your teen to talk about online abuse or bullying, access the resource officers and school counsellors for mediation or visit alberta.ca/bullying-prevention-resources.aspx.
Finally, about sexting or sharing nude pictures and images. A number of years ago, it would take a series of steps to send a naked image of yourself to someone else. Borrow the camera, then set up for the photo, download the image, get dressed, put it on a memory stick reader, then transfer onto a computer, and send it. Those steps provided a number of intersections to stop and realize this is a bad idea, one that might cause regret. People can now snap and send an image within 15 seconds of the original thought. This action can cause unwanted consequences down the road.