Do you know what “kids are doing these days”? Do you monitor YouTube and Facebook and Twitter? Well, if you’ve got a tween or teen, in particular, you should.
Peer pressure goes viral with social media
Peer pressure has been around as long as there have been teenagers. For centuries, parents have been concerned about who their kids’ friends are, where they spend their time, and what they are willing to do to fit in.
Now, nearly every teen has access to social media in some way, whether it’s at school, at the library, on a home computer, on a laptop in their bedrooms, or on their smartphones 24/7. Just how have social media sites like Flickr, Tumblr, Facebook, and Snapchat changed the dynamics of peer pressure?
In a University of Southern California survey of 1,500 10th graders, researchers found that students who saw pictures of their friends partying on social media sites were 20% more likely to become drinkers or smokers themselves in the next few months. The influence of social media still carries less weight than in-the-flesh peer pressure, but 20% is significant.
As parents, we need to recognize that we are competing against thousands of folks who may be hyping bad habits to our kids. We need to both model the habits we want our kids to have, and talk to our children about what the pros and cons of what they may see online.
Our kids now have more role models than we could’ve imagined when we were their age – they need our guidance to sort it out and make good choices.
Study links sexting with higher rates of sexual behaviors
According to a study of seventh graders published in Pediatrics, sexting of any kind is associated with higher rates of sexual behaviors, and sending sexually explicit photos is associated with even higher rates of sexual activity.
Besides the risks that come with sexual behavior, sexting poses other risks that many people might not consider at first. Kids (and unfortunately, adults) often think that what they say on social media or send in texts is safe.
Sexting is a way to send images of yourself and explicit messages that EVERYONE can see even when your kids feel like it’s private. It’s a way to alter their permanent social record because the pix never go away – so kiss graduate school good-bye. It’s a way for them to get arrested or have much more dangerous things happen to them.
So talk to your kids about it – and the other dangerous activities they love to post about on YouTube, Twitter, etc. Because if you don’t know about it, and you don’t talk about it, you can’t protect them.
The nuviun blog is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author.