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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Larson

Social Media Takes Center Stage - What Parents Need to Know

Updated: Jul 30, 2022

It’s been a busy week for big tech and most notably our favorite social media giants, Facebook and Instagram. With all the buzz around technology, we thought we’d dig into social media a bit more this week with a look at all the latest happenings that are likely on your radar (or should be) as a parent.

It definitely begs the question, how do we keep up with it all?

I was fortunate enough this week to have some pretty reliable sources. A school principal who shared some rather appalling TikTok challenges happening at schools across our country. A teenage son who tends to keep me apprised of the latest Netflix shows. And who could miss all the media hype about Facebook this week?

If you have kids using tech (and who doesn’t?) you need to know what apps they frequent. And you need to keep a pulse on the trending topics and content on those networks. And if you’re ever lacking dinner table (or carpool) conversation topics, this is a great place to start.

So let’s take a deeper dive on what’s happening this week.

Recent Social Media Trends Parents Should Know About

Technology has ruled the headlines recently. Here’s a list of some of the biggest stories:

'Devious licks' challenge on TikTok leads to criminal charges against students across US

Students across the U.S. are being arrested because of their hijinks committed as part of the 'devious licks' trend, which involves stealing or vandalizing school property. - USA Today - September 21, 2021

Pausing “Instagram Kids” and Building Parental Supervision Tools

From Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, “While we stand by the need to develop this experience, we’ve decided to pause this project. This will give us time to work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators, to listen to their concerns, and to demonstrate the value and importance of this project for younger teens online today.” - Instagram HQ - September 27, 2021

Why Facebook and Instagram went down for hours on Monday

When Facebook suffered an outage of about six hours on Monday, businesses suffered along with it. The platform and its Instagram and WhatsApp siblings play key roles in commerce, with some companies relying on Facebook's network instead of their own websites. - NPR - October 5, 2021

Facebook whistleblower testifies company 'is operating in the shadows, hiding its research from public scrutiny'

The Facebook whistleblower who released tens of thousands of pages of internal research and documents indicating the company was aware of various problems caused by its apps, including Instagram's potential "toxic" effect on teen girls, called on Congress to take action against the social media platform in testimony before a Senate subcommittee Tuesday. - CNN Business - October 6, 2021

Twitch source code and creator payouts part of massive leak

Twitch appears to have been hacked, leaking source code for the company’s streaming service, an unreleased Steam competitor from Amazon Game Studios, and details of creator payouts. - The Verge - October 6, 2021

Some students face charges for the 'slap a teacher' challenge. Now schools are issuing warnings.

Another month. Another TikTok challenge. The "slap your teacher" challenge is the latest trend that has resulted in some students facing charges and has schools and TikTok speaking out. - USA Today - October 8, 2021

And finally, a new Netflix series that is on track to be their highest rated show ever. SquidGame is extremely violent (I’m only about half way through) and definitely not appropriate for young kids (and yet most kids can’t miss the video clips trending all over TikTok). Read this review of Squid Game by Common Sense Media.

Benefits of Social Media - Yes There Are Some!

After a week like this one it may be hard to see the positive in social media. I expect teachers wish they could ban TikTok completely. And parents probably wish they had better oversight into the apps their kids are using and the content they are viewing.

On one side of the spectrum you have parents that do prohibit their kids from using social media altogether. But most of the research supports social media use - in moderation and with appropriate management and oversight.

Research from the Raising Children Network in Australia highlights several benefits of social media:

  • It’s a staple in many of our kids daily lives and they use it to have fun and socialize with friends (and likely it has become a staple in many of our adult lives too as a way to stay connected with friends and family during the pandemic)

  • It allows our kids to connect with people all over the world, no longer are they limited by geography to find others with similar interests

  • It also helps develop a child’s digital media literacy skills

However, social media isn’t just about funny memes and whacky challenges. It’s being used extensively in businesses too. A recent study found 84% of organizations use social media for recruiting to better reach and screen prospective employees.

College recruiters are also using it to screen prospective student athletes, and it’s important for students to know that repetitive careless or inappropriate behavior on social media can lead to scholarships being revoked. Check out this blog from Moms Team with more on this topic - What A Student-Athlete Posts Online Matters, More Than You May Think.

The Social Dilemma (Netflix) Pros and Cons

It can be hard to keep up with your own social media activity, let alone monitoring the barrage of content in front of your kids as well. If you’re looking for a place to start, here’s some ideas.

If you haven’t already, check out The Social Dilemma (on Netflix). It is also currently available (full feature) on YouTube albeit with a note that they will take it down September 30th, though it was still accessible when I checked again yesterday.

There are mixed reviews around the overall messages of the film - that social media is addictive and we are basically being manipulated by big tech. However, if you weren’t aware of what big tech is doing to acquire, track and store data, or perhaps you were unclear exactly how these infamous social media algorithms worked, the film will be eye-opening.

After watching the film and reading a few of the reviews, like this one from the New York Times, take a look at some of the blogs written by Niyar Patel including The Addictive Products Myth: Who Is the Culprit Here? which provides a new model for understanding addiction.

Tips to Managing Your Family’s Social Media Activity

If you’re looking to get a better handle on your kids social media activity, here’s a list of programs that have parental control features. Keep in mind, if your home “tech policy” is pretty loose it can be a lot to keep track of!

Join the Discussion

Technology and likely social media is here to stay. As policy makers in our country increase regulation of many of these tools, remember not all the apps our kids enjoy originate here in the U.S. (looking at you TikTok!). So it is important for each of us to take some responsibility around how we manage our own experiences and provide a positive model for our kids.

How does your family manage social media activity?

About the Author

Jennifer Larson is an entrepreneur, charter school founder and mother to four children. Connect with her @startupjen.

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