Teens, Temporary Apps and Social Media

Social Media and TeensThe following post is written by Peter Twadell, Director of Educational Technology at Tower School. Mr. Twadell is an educator, an advocate for balanced and thoughtful use of media, and a parent of two teens.

If you live in Marblehead, you may be aware of an incident that took place at the high school several weeks ago, involving a student who used a “temporary app” to make a generalized threat. Thankfully, it appears that the threat was not a serious effort to cause harm, but authorities take such posts seriously.  While complete details of the event are private, due to the age of the student, it is fair to say the text posted caused a cascade of problems for the community and the individual involved.

What is a temporary app? A temporary app is one of several classes of social media apps, available on every mobile device. Each type of social media app behaves differently, with pros and cons that are real.  Whether one sees a particular app’s features as a positive or a negative, however, is dictated by one’s point of view.  As an example, parents and teachers have been repeating the mantra that everything one posts “lasts forever.”  Addressing this problem, developers have created apps that provide—or appear to provide—less permanence, seeming to protect a user from “post-post regret.”  Tweens and teens have begun to use temporary apps and anonymous apps to share without fear that what they post will become “part of your permanent record.” Many have found, to their regret, that these posts are not truly private or anonymous.  Worse, use of the apps can lead to unintended consequences and abuse.

So, what do we do?  First, it is never too early to talk about social media with your child.  Keep on talking—and listening—as your child grows! Connecting with others is an important part of growing up, and increasingly, we are turning to mobile devices and apps to reach out. Talk about your family rules and monitor your kids’—as well as your own—use of social media. Set clear guidelines, with limits and expectations everyone understands and accepts.  Young children need lots of structure, but emerging adolescents need boundaries, too.  Teens often have difficulty self-regulating time, so as a parent, checking in with your teen remains critical.

A healthy digital diet is predicated on having time away from screens, and on what we do with our devices. We serve as key role models for our kids, so practice what you preach.  Encourage your child to talk about social media – with you or a teacher at school – anytime they have a question or concern. And remember, the best advice you can give your kids about social media is … be kind.

If you want to know more about emerging social media trends, check out the article “Trend Alert: 6 Messaging Apps That Let Teens Share (Iffy) Secrets” from Common Sense Media. Information helps us frame discussions and realize we aren’t alone as we parent our kids!



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About Tower School, Marblehead MA 01945

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