Let's face it: If you want to guess what your teen is doing at any given moment, you have a very high probability of guessing correctly if you suspect that they are on some form of social media. And yes, we, their parents, may be up to the same thing.
According to a recent survey of 1,030 13-17 year-olds conducted online by Knowledge Networks, teens are heavy users of digital media. Consider the findings:
1. Nine out of ten (90%) 13- to 17-year-olds have used some form of social media.
2. 75% of teenagers currently have a profile on a social networking site.
3. One in five of the teens surveyed (22%) had a current Twitter account.
4. As suspected, Facebook dominated social networking use among teens: 68% of all teens said Facebook is their main social networking site as compared to 6% for Twitter, 1% for GooglePlus and 1% for MySpace.
5. For the majority of teens, social and other forms of digital communication media are a daily part of life.
6. Approximately two thirds of teens text every day.
7. A little more than 50% surveyed visit social networking sites daily.
8. Approximately 11% of the teens surveyed sent or received tweets at least once every day.
9. More than a third of teens visited their main social networking site several times a day.
10. Approximately one fourth of teens were considered "heavy" social media users, meaning that they used at least two different types of social media each and every day.
Given this data, what's a parent to do? This is based on the assumption that we want our kids to get some sunlight, communicate in person at least some of the time and have their daily lives include a healthy balance of physical, social and other stimulating activities. Here are some ideas based on the activities of many parents who have addressed this problem successfully:
1. Model a balanced daily schedule yourself. Your teens are watching you very closely, and if you are constantly plugged in electronically then you certainly can't expect your teens to do otherwise. After all, you are their most influential role model.
2. Charge their cell phones outside of their bedrooms so they are not up until the wee hours of the night texting. Most teens are already sleep-deprived, right?
3. Set a limit on the amount of time that they can spend on their computers. Yep, they may get angry at you for setting this limit, but absorbing our teens' anger is what parents are supposed to do. Remember we are their parents not their friends.
4. Get their passwords so that you can monitor their use of Facebook, because lots of conflicts start there. Yes, they will be resistant but hey, you bought the computer, right? And, your goal is to look out for your kids' safety.
5. Consider access to the various forms of social media a privilege, not a right. If they abuse it then they lose it for a specified amount of time. I can assure you that this will be very effective.
Good luck as you help your kids' navigate their digital lives. It may not be easy, but many other aspects of parenting are also not easy.