Teens love their smartphones.
“I mainly use Snapchat and Twitter and Instagram,” says Hollidaysburg Area High School Senior Nathan Swartz.
Dominic Frucello, also a Senior at Hollidaysburg Area High School says, “in our generation pretty much since elementary school is when I started using Facebook and Snapchat.”
Kids today know how to navigate smartphones and technology better than most adults.
So, who is teaching them how to be safe on social media?
“The school has talked with me more about it than anything,” says Senior Dylan Allison. “They’ve told me like, make sure you watch what you’re doing, your jobs might be looking at this, things like that.”
“But really, the schools aren’t giving the phones to the kids, the parents are,” says Ryan Klingensmith,
cofounder of the Pennsylvania-based organization Shape the Sky.
Shape the Sky works to help parents understand the online world their children now live in.
“Kids have the technology and know how to use it and parents are a little behind with that so my goal is to try to flip the equation because responsible parenting is like responsible teaching a kid to drive,” says Klingensmith.
Distinguished Professor on Information Science and Technology at Penn State John Carroll agrees.
He says, “teenagers expect and want some guidance from parents, not just affirmation, not just support, not just freedom.”
Klingensmith has three tips for parents.
Number one: Know the technologies your kids are using and learn how to use reporting functions and privacy settings.
“I tell parents all the time. I know you might think Snapchat’s for kids but if the kids are playing on the Snapchat playground then you should know the Snapchat playground looks like,” says Klingensmith.
Professor Carroll says this is something parents will have to keep up over the years.
“Based on technology trajectories it’s not too likely that when you’re my age you’re not going to be using the same technology today, that’s just because technology switches out every five or ten years,” explains Professor Carroll.
Number two: Setting expectations, and developing a contract with the kids before you give them technology.
“If they already have the technology kind of try to pull it back a little bit so they can start setting some expectations,” says Klingensmith. “Because parents give kids expectations around everything in their life pretty much around grades, around behavior, but we really need to have the same structure around technologies that the kids are using.”
And number three: know how to monitor your kids behavior.
“Are you once a week checking your kid’s settings? Are you sitting down and going over social media accounts with them and looking at different things? Is it a partnership with you kind of in the lead role?,” asks Klingensmith.
These are tips some students we talked to say their parents are already doing.
“My mom has all the social media. I keep in touch with her over Snapchat and she always talks to me and makes sure I’m safe on social media,” says Hollidaysburg Senior Kyle Basal.
But others are confident — their parents don’t need to.
“They just kind of trust us with it because we’ve grown up with it all our lives,” says Senior Dylan Allison.
Even if you trust your child, Klingensmith says being a parent on social media allows you to be a resource for your child when they need help in the online world.
But first you need to know how it works just like other daily activities we do every day.
“You wouldn’t just give a kid a car without teaching a kid how to drive. And you teach them how to drive because you know how to drive and you have a car and you practiced it a long time before you teach them how to drive,” explains Klingensmith.
There’s an even happening at the end of May that can help parents.
Shape the Sky is coming to Altoona next week.
Klingensmith review apps, cell phones, social media, settings, and more on how to talk with your teen about using their devices safely.
This is for adults only and is free.
It’ happening Thursday, May 31st from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at the Altoona Area Junior High auditorium.