Bomb Threat Oommggg! #LOL | Kids & Social Media

In Florida, two girls, ages 12 and 14, were charged with felonies for "allegedly taunting and bullying another 12-year old girl until she committed suicide.”

2014:

A 17-year old boy was arrested for posting a nude picture on Instagram of a 15-year old girl.

In California, a 16-year old boy was arrested after naked pictures of underage girls appeared on his Twitter account.

Missouri police arrest two boys after posting a video to Facebook of them abusing a dog.

I had to trim my list from above, as there were far too many stories relevant here. Keep in mind, the above are actual arrests and legal cases, not students being suspended from school over social media postings. Those are plentiful too. In addition to landing in jail or being barred from graduation because of online activity, be mindful that employers and colleges are peeking in at our social media activity. Ahem, don’t forget, if your social media accounts are public, that means anyone can see them. It apparently bears repeating. Parents must also be aware of the amount of information and “inspiration” available online for eating disorders and self-harm. Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram are ripe with posts celebrating and encouraging them. Although the companies have tried to protect its users by banning certain tags, the content is still immense and readily available at your child’s fingertips. Tumblr is a dumping house for posts offering advice and tips promoting anorexia, others seem to embrace depression and suicide. Although the social media blog site has taken measures to help its users, such as specific landing pages advising bloggers to seek help if one enters certain search words, those posts and blogs are out there.

I haven’t mentioned “online predators” until the end because I feel like parents are somewhat more aware about this part of online safety than the others. It’s the first thing most parents think of when they hear “internet safety,” and so common that it is a frequent sitcom joke. We were inundated with the now meme-ified To Catch A Predator, I think parents thought that was the only danger online. Parents should remain vigilant to the fact that social media can open the door to predators, but our responsibility doesn’t begin and end there.

Also, when we do discuss this topic with our kids, let’s drop the ripped from a Law and Order episode horror story to “scare” your teen from talking to strangers online! It isn’t working nor is it accurate. Never mind the fact it’s hard to know who is a stranger when Facebook calls them my “friend.” It’s easy to get comfortable online amongst our friends and followers, and teens especially may be quick to forget those “friends” don’t care about you no matter how many times they “liked” your posts. When we feel at home on social media, it's easy to forget that what we are posting is often there for the whole world to see. We can’t allow ourselves or our children to ever become complacent when online. Comfort and a lack of understanding are a big part of why kids and teens don’t give a second thought to sharing every detail about themselves online and engaging in illegal activities there.

We’re letting our kids hop online with no concern, yet if they said they were going to a party at some stranger’s house this weekend, we might have more than a few questions for them. Listen, I’ve been to a few wild parties in my time, I have seen some things… All of that pales in comparison to the Internet. I'm not saying it’s evil, I love the Internet. I embrace social media, I think Twitter and Tumblr in particular are wonderful tools for expression. I want teens to use them and I think they can be extremely positive.

What I am saying, parents, is ask. Ask questions and be aware, keep your kids safe. Be proactive. Give your children the information they need as they navigate all there is to explore from their smartphones, tablets, and computers. Let them know (and mean it!) they can come to you when the Internet gets too big for them and they may be in trouble. We all make mistakes, plenty of adults are getting in trouble from over-sharing online. Teens are traveling this awkward bridge between childhood and adulthood. We have to educate and support them, and anticipate they may stumble at times. We are not preparing them for the responsibilities that come with social media, and instead only reacting then they mess up. Their mess-ups are getting uglier, it’s time we notice.

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