An excerpt from Teenagers and Parents (5th edition to be published 9/15/16)
Teenagers are spending almost nine hours each day using online music or videos, TV, or “chatting” online, according to a 2015 report by Common Sense Media. Tweens, ages 8 to 12, average six hours reports Jim Steyer, the director of the study. Over 2600 teens were interviewed. Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2010 study said the average, then, was five and a half hours for tweens, over eight hours for the 11 to 14 group and nine for the 15 to 18 year olds—more than the daily hours of school. The trend is definitely up. But 25 percent of kids say their parents know little of what they watch on TV or do on social media.
Mom: “Jason, are you still on that cell phone of yours?”
Jason: “Yeah, I’m texting Mark.”
Mom: “Mark, who?”
Jason: “He’s my fellow fullback on the J-V soccer team.”
Mom: “Well. get off and come to lunch.”
Jason: “Just a second.”
Mom: (A minute later) “Jason, come now!”
Jason muttered “gotta go” while texting, then he shoved his phone in his pocket and went into the kitchen.
Mom: “I’m starting to think that phone was a big mistake.”
Jason: “Mom, Mark’s a friend. We were just talking over the game.”
Friends are an important part of life and social media has become the connection of choice for teenagers. Parents need to be careful in setting limits because many teens “talk” with friends a lot more since the social media has become so popular. Time spent socializing has gone way up and time chatting with friends is not a waste. But the internet may establish a fear of missing out that keeps a teenager up to the wee hours not only because he might miss out but also because he may fear missing anything.
Some computer companions are not so nice. In 2016 we have over 800,000 registered sex offenders (nearly all online) in the United States. Seventy percent of our teens will accept “friends” regardless of whether they know the person making the request. Only 25 percent of 12 to 17-year-old victims told their parents of the sexual predators they met on line. Only 10 percent of victims of cyber bullying told their parents.
One father told me his son who had objected to his father invading his online privacy was arrested for distributing pornographic materials on the net. His son found some pictures of younger girls not quite dressed and in provocative positions. He sent them to “friends” on the net one of whom was a detective posing as a teenager. His son was arrested. If convicted, his record could follow him the rest of his life. Keeping up-to-date on your teenager’s internet activities is a very important parental habit.
Since we all know that anything online can be seen by anybody, this is not the same as the privacy issue of a personal diary. A diary is not available to any savvy computer guy. It is more like posting your note down town on a wooden fence and adding your phone number! If it goes viral, it’s as if it were copied on the town water tower.