Kids do everything to protect their privacy on the internet, but is it enough? When and how should parents step in, and is it called for?
Privacy and social media: an oxymoron if ever there was one! Teenagers, we think it’s fair to say, like to be a little sneaky, and are definitely not keen to have their mums snooping on their social media accounts. So what does privacy mean to a teen and what does it mean to a parent? My colleague, Tracy (mum of a very grumpy teenager), is concerned about her son not having enough lockdown on his accounts, therefore giving way to salubrious characters befriending him and whisking him off to a commune. On the other hand, the teens KNOW their disapproving mothers are spying on their accounts, and so the privacy they really want is from said mother (or a boss/teacher type). So what is privacy on social media and how are the youth of today avoiding prying eyes? Here’s our mini-guide to how parents can keep an eye on social media by knowing the tricks and keeping their distance…
Owning several accounts
This started to gain traction especially during the early 2000s when the internet became more mainstream. Kids had to start ditching their old edgy emails like ‘dragonslayer420’ in exchange for emails they could use for school. Having several emails was also useful for creating different social media accounts for platforms that didn’t let you create several accounts (e.g. Facebook and Twitter, however the latter actually lets you connect two different Twitter accounts in your mobile app). Other social media platforms like Tumblr let you create several different accounts under the same email.
The upside to having different social media accounts, not just across different platforms but on the same platform, is that it allows kids to present different personas to different social circles. This means you could spam cat pics on your Facebook feed to a certain circle of friends and not drown out Important News on everyone else’s feed. (Side note: Facebook and Google are making this a little harder, or easier, depending on how you see it, by connecting all your accounts.)
Tracy’s thoughts on this: So basically I need to out-sneak the sneak and check and cross check all his emails against potential alternative Facebook/Instagram accounts? Hmm. This makes sense. He’s always been fine with me being his friend on Facebook, but on Insta, not so much. Which leads me to believe I am being duped on Facebook. Will have to look up all and any alternatives to his name right about… now.
Kids do pick and choose what to share, and it can go as big as not posting anything to small things like censoring the bad words. Luckily, privacy settings (and the block button) make things so much easier. You can set your account to private so that only you or your mutuals (people who you follow and follow you back) can see it and Facebook has a slew of little knobs and buttons to flick on and off so that Grandma sees the photo of you on holiday but doesn’t see the status update with the swear word. Most social media platforms also allow you to delete content.
Tracy again: So actually, he may not have another Facebook account… he is censoring me? His own mother? The woman who gave him a face in the first place. #disgruntled
Sure, the internet is full of big bads, but just because they can reach out to you doesn’t mean you have to let them. Setting accounts on private or just locking them completely, blocking people, needing friend requests to be approved, and only friending mutuals are just a few ways to keep out the riff raff. Though a far cry from the infamous Twitter DM slide, we won’t lie, even the ‘people you may know’ list on Facebook makes us a little nervous.
Tracy: What is a DM slide? Is that when you go down a slide in your Doctor Martens? I like the idea of these settings. Being blocked by my own kid? Not so much. I guess what I really need to do is accept that my son thinks I am highly uncool, but not so unworthy to have blocked me altogether. Looks like I will have to take the censored access (and the blocked altogether on Insta!) and maybe just trust him. I guess so long as he knows the dangers (apparently “Duh, mum, I am not a complete moron”) I just have to let him be, and ensure he knows he can come to me if he needs to?
*Off to hack into son’s iMac*
Check out our other articles in the series: Should parents monitor the social media accounts of their tweens and teens? and The apps teens are using right now
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