I am going to admit something. As much as I love, live and breathe social media and all things technology, knowing I officially have a tween that is heavily engaged in that same world is pretty scary to me.
My daughter is now in the very delicate and oh-so-fun tween (or pre-teen) stage in her life and unlike back in my day when being a tween involved large posters straight out of Bop or Big Bopper Mags, recording my favourite songs on the radio to cassette tapes (to add to my growing collection!), spending endless hours playing Mall Madness or Girl Talk board games with friends after applying Sun-in in our hair to highlight it only for it to turn orange or organizing my caboodle, now almost everything is about Social Media.
The Thriving Digital Revolution in our Youth
I have my fears but I also have reassurance knowing there are many ways we can protect our children online so they can enjoy, learn and grow in this digital age. Technology is our world now. It’s not going anywhere, and our kids need it too. Many schools (ours included) utilize the use of technology and even social media in their curriculum and communication.
Technology in our schools and homes for our children isn’t what fazes me, it’s the social media sphere that does. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. I use it frequently for personal and professional use, and yes, it’s a lot of fun! It’s a great way to express yourself (or your business), it’s the common way of communicating with your social circles, it’s very “au courant” and entertaining and let’s face it, everywhere we look — television, newspapers, magazines, on the radio — social media is where to go.
Lately I have been noticing my daughter using the platform, TikTok (formerly Musically). She loves this platform and uses it A LOT. Naturally, I opened my own account and followed her. She is set to private on it (as she is on her instagram account as well) which is something I urge tween’s (and teens!) to do with their social media accounts. So what is TikTok? It’s a social media site where users can create an account and post fun, short videos with background music of their choosing allowing them to get creative and also engage with their friends. Are your kids on social media? If not TikTok, I’m sure it’s Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook or YouTube.
As I browsed through the timeline of public users on TikTok (predominantly tweens and teens), feeling like a complete dinosaur mind you, I chuckled at a few, head-bopped to others and then cringed at one of a teenage girl dancing with her midriff exposed in way that she probably shouldn’t be, well at least in the public eye.
Sure this may just be my mama-bear mode flaring up but it did bother me.
Another recent occurrence that sparked my mama-bear mode to emerge was when my daughter started receiving frequent private messages on her Instagram from a fellow male classmate. I know him, I know his parents and I’m totally and completely okay with her connecting with classmates and close friends on her social media accounts. What started off as small ‘Hi’s” and “How’s your summer going?” became more frequent and at even odd hours of the night. It was obvious after reading the messages that this young man had an obvious infatuation with my daughter. Crushes happen, especially at this age, but had I not been monitoring her Instagram account and messages, I would have missed some of these red flags.
Call me super protective all you want, but these are the times you need to be more proactive and engaged in what your children are doing online. I sat her down and had a heart-to-heart about life. She is at that age now and I’m sure she has questions but I wanted to be available for her 100%, with no judgement. I want her to know that the digital world isn’t scary but it’s how you conduct yourself, how you set up the right tools to protect you and your loved ones and how to best use it to your advantage, that matter.
Here are a few of my personal tips if you have a social-media savvy tween:
1) Set accounts to private
This I cannot stress enough. If you’ve got a tween or teen, let them know you don’t mind them using this platform as long as they use it responsibly and that starts off by making sure their account is set to private. Only accept friend or follow requests from those that you know very well (friends & family) and follow only accounts that you know (including some kid-friendly celebrities). Some may not want to agree with you on this because there’s that distorted view that the amount of followers and views they have matters, but remind them that it doesn’t. Quality over quantity and always better safe than sorry.
2) Limit the amount of time they have on their devices
Set a timeframe or “device time” for your tween and let them know their limits. This builds trust, ensures they have a healthy dose of online time and allows them to learn responsible cyber usage.
3) Follow them on social media
Yes, you need to be “that” parent that’s sending friend requests, liking every photo and leaving random comments on their posts. I know I am but I’m also feeling a lot safer knowing I am part of my child’s social (media) circle. Her friends are least likely to say inappropriate things when mom just commented above. Ha! There’s nothing wrong with it and I’m sure your child will appreciate it (if not, they will learn to – like it or not). Keeping in-the-know by following your kids on social media isn’t intrusive or scrupulous, it’s being a vigilant and slick parent.
4) Have frequent heart-to-heart chats
Sit down with your tween as often as you can, whether it’s next to them on their bed or over a mani-pedi or a Netflix-marathon together, as long as they’re comfortable and in the position to open up and talk. Take interest in what they’re doing online and discuss it. This opens up the dialogue between you and your tween so you can dive into more important matters. Tweens are still too young to fully grasp what’s accurate and truthful or not on the internet (fake news!), and tough topics such as sexting, cyberbullying, exploitation and predatory signs should definitely be brought to the table.
4) Play a game with them
Fortnite and Roblox are two things I hear frequently in this home. I’m sure I’m not alone. Online gaming is so popular amongst tweens and teens and a lot of these games allow users to interact with one another (even through private messaging). Make sure your kids know the gaming safety rules including never revealing (or using) your first and last name, age, and location. And to also remember to not allow or engage in any cyberbullying of any sort. If they see something that bothers them – report it!
5) Get Wise
Telus Wise has been an instrumental tool in our household, especially now that we have finally caved and signed our daughter up for her first phone & data plan. It’s a peace of mind for me to be able to call or text my daughter throughout the day; this was the main reason we decided to give her her own phone & plan.
Free-of-charge, TELUS Wise® offers interactive and informative workshops and content to help Canadians of all ages have a positive experience as digital citizens. Topics include protecting your online security, privacy, and reputation, rising above cyberbullying, and using technology responsibly.
We benefited greatly using the Telus Family Advantage. With the Telus Family Advantage, you can customize, control and save with a plan that works best for your family. My suggestion would be to call or visit your local store if you’re planning to get a new device to be able to test them out first.
- Call store first to see if they can help directly or if they can transfer you to the correct TELUS rep (for existing regular or corporate customers)
- corporate accounts require access to work email to order device/plan with TELUS rep on the phone
- If you decide to buy a new device, there is a 4gb bonus subject to a 2-year plan for each member (4gb total shareable data)
We jumped onto a $50 Unlimited nationwide plus shareable data plan (this was a price based on my husbands current corporate plan minus the $10 for her plan (original is $60 for unlimited nationwide corporate account holders)) for our daughter and did not add extra data as we opted for shared data between our three phone lines. For non-corporate plans, the unlimited local calling starts at $60 and unlimited nationwide starting at $65 (these prices are based on the primary account holder). Any additional family members will get $10 deducted on each plan.
The nationwide plan we chose was great because it includes the unlimited nationwide calling, unlimited local calling, voicemail, MMS and unlimited texting (which we know is so important for tweens!) plus we can manage real-time data usage and set up notifications for every family member. Learn more about the Telus Family Advantage here.
So parents, what types of digital battles are you dealing with right now with your tweens or teens? What other tips and advice do you have for parents with tech-savvy tweens?
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Telus as a Team Telus Ambassador; however, all opinions expressed are entirely those of the author.