5 Takeaways From CNN’s Study on 13-Year-Olds

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CNN just aired a documentary on #Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens. The show revealed findings of a study of more than 200 eighth graders and their use of social media. After reviewing more than 150,000 social media posts collected from the students’ social media sites, the study revealed these findings:

1. Teens are on smartphones and tablets constantly.

It’s not unusual for teens to check their devices more than 100 times a day. Whether at school, home, or at an afterschool activity, social media is a constant companion and source of instant access to the online lives of their friends and peers.

2. Social media is a source of anxiety for many teens.

Rather than being on social media to share good things that were going on in their lives, the majority of those in the study said they were checking their social media sites to make sure no one was saying bad things about them and to check their status. Were their posts getting “likes”? Are their friends doing things without them? Are people saying bad things about them?

3. Rather than posting, many teens are lurking.

About 1/3 of those in the study said they spend a large portion of their time studying their friends’ and peers’ social media sites to figure out where they stand in the social pecking order. They look to see who is in and who is out, whose popularity in growing and whose is waning. On the CNN show, many of the teens said one bad post or picture could ruin a person’s reputation.

4. Social media use can be addicting.

The parents and the 13-year-olds on the show all agreed the use of social media is addicting. Before taping the show, the parents were asked to take their children’s phones away. One girl was shown sobbing. A couple of them said they would rather go without food for a week or be grounded than to have their phones taken away.

5. Parents who pay attention to their teens’ online lives erase the negative effects of social media.

Ninety-four percent of parents in the study underestimated the impact that social media was having on their children’s well being. Those parents who were actively engaged in their teens’ online lives were able to help their teens navigate the pluses and minuses of their social media use. When teens knew their parents were monitoring what they were doing, they were far less likely to engage in bullying or sexting or other inappropriate behaviors that are all too common in the social media lives of 13-year-olds.

One other comment from the show stood out. For this generation, their face-to-face lives are the same as their social media lives. There is no distinction.

Beyond the negatives, the study found that teens use social media to show support for one another, to encourage peers when they were going through personal struggles, and to defend one another from people who were saying negative things about their friends.

Questions for Parents and Churches:

1. How are you helping the children and youth in your church engage in face-to-face conversations away from social media?

2. How are you paying attention to the impact of social media on your children or youth?

3. What alternatives to social media do you offer? When do you have children and youth take a break? When do children and youth do an activity without social media?

4.  As an adult, how many of these things are true for you as well? Do you lurk?  Are you constantly comparing your friend’s posting with your real life?  Are you checking your phone over 100 time a day?  Does too much consumption of social media make your anxious?

Craig Kennet Miller is the author of iKids: Parenting in the Digital Age. Go to www.iKidsgen.com for study guides for youth groups and parents.

Give the Gift of Privacy to your iKids this Year

Christmas day is now the biggest day for downloads of gaming apps and signing up for social media sites. Just like previous years, as soon as the iKids Generation unwrap their smartphones and tablets they will be ready to go online and load up their devices with game apps and social media sites. If they are first-time users of social media sites like Facebook or Instagram, they will be eager to post their first selfies and search madly for friends who can “Like” them.

As fun as this all is, it would be well for parents and grandparents to put on the brakes long enough to give some old-fashioned advice and to prepare them as they create their online identities. Just like you wouldn’t let a 16-year-old drive a car without getting a learner’s permit, you shouldn’t let your iKids jump on the World Wide Web without the basic rules of the road.

The current Sony hacking scandal in which hackers revealed the private emails of corporate executives and released the social security numbers of thousands of employees is an important reminder that everything we post in the digital world is free game.

A newly released report from Pew on “The Future of Privacy” points to the eroding notion of privacy. By 2025, as companies and nations hone their data mining skills by tapping the personal data of online users, individuals will be hard pressed to find privacy. The study says:

“We have seen the emergence of publicly as the default modality, with privacy declining. In order to ‘exist’ online, you have to publish things to be share, and that has to be done in open, public spaces.”

What does this mean for the iKids, those born since 2000? As they head into their teenage years and as they make their first forays into digital life their ideas, emotions, and opinions will be feasted upon by major corporations like Disney, Amazon, Netflix, Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, and Google to discover the newest emerging trends and to develop sophisticated marketing campaigns to sell their products.

Later in life, as they apply for college and for jobs, their online identity will be just as important as grade point averages, test scores, or essays. When they look for a life partner, a digital identity will reveal to a potential loved one their interests and desires.

Unlike previous generations, the iKids live in a digitalized world where every thought, image, and personal stuff that is put online is public domain. They don’t have the luxury of second chances. If they make a mistake, the world as they know it will know. So before you set them free, give them the gift of some important rules to keep them safe and to lower the risk of totally embarrassing themselves before family and friends.

So what are the basics you should cover?

  1. Assume everything you put online is public
    If you make a bad remark about a friend, assume he or she will see it
    If you post a funny picture, assume it will be shared with everyone
  2. Ask permission before downloading a new game or social media site
  3. Do not share personal information like:
    Name
    Phone number
    School name
    Address of your house
  4. When signing up on social media sites use privacy settings
    Say no to giving out your location
    Say no to linking to other social media sites

For more guidelines go to:
Common Sense Media

Craig Kennet Miller is the author of iKids: Parenting in the Digital Age