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Fame-seeking on Social Media

March 28, 2017

By Sunny Chico and Jessica Vician

Teenage Fame-seeking on Social Media | As parents of teenagers, social media is always on our minds. It's a communication and social outlet that we didn't have growing up and we must consider it in our parenting strategies.

As parents of teenagers, social media is always on our minds. It's a communication and social outlet that we didn't have growing up and we must consider it in our parenting strategies.

There are many reasons we need to pay attention to our teenagers on social media, and a prominent one is bullying. There have been multiple times when criminals have aired their crimes on Facebook Live, like the recent rape of a 15-year-old girl and a the torture of a special needs 18-year-old man.

What made these people—some of whom are teenagers—want to broadcast it for friends and strangers to see? 

Social and Emotional Development
Social media plays a strong role in teenage social and emotional development.

Unlike television, where you just sit and watch, social media is an active medium. Teens are chatting, sharing, liking, commenting, etc. They're having unsupervised conversations with each other, which can have a lasting effect on their development.

Knowing what teens are doing on social media, we have to ask, "What could motivate these kids to broadcast rape and torture of teenagers?"

The answer? The need for fame.

I read a great article that talked about teenagers and the value of fame. The researcher noted that in the past 50 years, popular television shows have promoted friendship, family, and community. Think about Friends, Happy Days, and The Cosby Show.

But in the past 10 years, television has changed. Now popular television promotes fame. It's reality TV—American Idol, The Voice, Real Housewives, the Kardashian's. Even Hannah Montana, which your kids might have watched when they were younger, is a normal teenager by day but a pop star by night.

The value of fame is everywhere for our teens, so it's only natural that they seek it in a place that is very public and yet very private—social media.

Internet fame is the most accessible fame that teens have access to. A well-hashtagged Instagram post, a YouTube video or tutorial that goes viral, even a smart, witty tweet might get retweeted by someone famous.

It feels great to have someone—let alone hundreds, thousands, even millions—recognize and appreciate you, what you said, or what you did. And in some cases, just getting noticed is enough—like in the example of the teens and 20-something who broadcast the torture of their 18-year-old peer on Facebook Live.

Those kids were noticed for doing something horrible. But they were noticed, which might be all that mattered to them. For kids who aren't getting enough attention from their parents, often times negative attention is better than no attention at all.

How to help
So how do we prevent our kids from seeking negative attention or seeking fame online?

We don't need to keep them off of social media. After all, when used well, it's a great communication outlet for them and a way to connect outside of school with peers they might not spend time with in school.

But we do need to nurture our kids offline—in real life—to make sure they are receiving the attention, the understanding, the love, and the pride from us that they need so they don't go seeking it online, and especially in a negative way.

Share affection
You can start by showing your kids love. If your daughter plays basketball, go to the games and give her a specific compliment afterward, like, "You did a great job finding teammates who were open and passing to them. I'm really proud of you—you're a great team player."

If your son is on student council, ask about the meetings and if he is on a committee. Compliment him on his leadership skills and being brave enough to speak up to help shape the school.

Even if your kids aren't involved in extracurriculars, compliment them on what you love most about them. Maybe it's their compassion for their peers, or how they help you clean up after dinner. Specific compliments, aside from "I love you," go a long way to help them feel loved and truly noticed.

Our kids learn from us. They learn to speak, smile, even frown from watching us at a young age, and that continues as they get older.

Be respectful
Treat your friends with respect, and avoid talking poorly about others, especially around your kids.

Refrain from engaging in negative posting on your social pages as well, as you want to continue to model positive behavior.

Watch better TV
Watch television shows that promote friends, family, and community—not fame. If you must watch shows that promote fame, watch them together and talk about what the people are doing. If it's The Voice, focus on the talent instead of criticizing. If it's the Kardashian's, focus on their familial bond, or talk about why negative behavior is good for TV but not for real life. 

Talk to the school
If you're worried that your teen is spending too much time on social media, is being a bully online or is being bullied, think about what you can do to help. For example, if your teen is spending too much time on social media, find a school sport or club that your teen would like and encourage them to join. Reroute their need for socialization to offline activities.

If your teen is being bullied, talk to the school about how to address the bullying. Teachers and counselors can help you take action.

It starts with you
Remember, you are your child's first teacher. Just as you taught them how to talk, you can teach them how to find confidence and pride in themselves in the real world. By nurturing their emotional needs, they won't be as likely to hurt others in social settings—whether that's in person or online.

And while everyone seeks a little bit of fame, if you show them your love and pride for them, they might be less likely to seek it online from strangers. All it takes is a little extra love. 


Fun and Safe Websites for Kids

August 16, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Fun and Safe Websites for Kids | How do we allow our toddlers, our kids under 12, and our teenagers to use the internet for all of its benefits while keeping them away from its dangers? | A laptop sits on a table with the article title, "Fun + Safe Websites for Kids" on the screen.

Your kids are digital natives, which means they have always lived with the internet and digital devices. For those of us who remember the exciting yet frustrating sound of AOL connecting to the phone line, it’s a part of parenting that we don’t have our own stories to model after.

How do we allow our toddlers, our kids under 12, and our teenagers to use the internet for all of its benefits while keeping them away from its dangers?

There are fun and safe websites out there for kids of all ages. When in doubt, I recommend checking Common Sense Media, as they are constantly rating and evaluating various media to give parents the information they need to determine if the TV show, app, or movie is appropriate for their kids.

If you’re going to give your toddlers screen time, limit them to TV cartoons, movies, and apps made for their age range. Most of the apps designed for toddlers focus on learning in a fun way, so try some of these.

Elementary School
For younger elementary school kids (grades K–3), focus on their favorite TV shows and topics they’re interested in. PBS Kids has great options that include cartoons and learning activities for varied interests, including science, engineering, and nature.

For older elementary school kids (grades 4–6), games that reinforce the learning they’re doing in school, like Minecraft, can be great opportunities to keep learning at home. As a parent, you need to enforce playing in moderation and not physically meeting up with people your kids might meet online in the game.

Use game time as a reward for completing homework. You could even use coding games and apps to teach your kids how to code.

Preteens and Teenagers
It’s important to know what apps and sites your teens are on so that you can set guidelines for safe usage. Again, Common Sense Media has a great breakdown of the apps your teens are using now and what you need to know about them.

The good news? The most popular sites and apps that teens are using are pretty safe. As with all screen time, it’s important to enforce using it in moderation and after homework is done. And make sure you require these privacy tips on your teen’s social networks.


Accepting Your Teen's Personal Style

January 28, 2015

By Ana Vela

Accepting Your Teen's Personal Style | A teen poses for a photo with her skateboard in a leather jacket, big round sunglasses, flannel and printed shirt.

During the teen years, your child will begin defining his or her identity. According to PBS's This Emotional Life, "the main goal of identity formation in adolescence is to develop a clear sense of self." There are many ways teens will explore their identities—one of those being personal style.

Fashion becomes a very important form of expression to a teen. As a parent, you have a critical role in helping your child shape the image he or she projects to the world. It's possible your teen will decide to make personal style choices that do not align to what's considered normal in society. Or your teen may make choices that you do not agree with. Regardless, be supportive through these phases to help your teen's self esteem.  

As someone who dressed "weird" as a teenager, being bullied and teased in school didn't nearly hurt me as much as having my own mother disapprove and be embarrassed of my appearance. 

According to Dr. Alexandra Dells-Abrams, a transpersonal psychologist, low self-esteem has been linked to violent behavior, school dropout rates, teenage pregnancy, suicide, and low academic achievement. If your teen feels that you do not like his or her identity, it may lead to further feelings of isolation and a household of constant arguing.

This happened with my family while I was a teenager. If my mother had attempted to understand me and be more supportive, the tension in our household would not have existed. Should this situation arise with my daughter, I plan to handle it differently to help build my daughter’s self-esteem. 

Here are various ways you can help as your teen explores his or her personal style:

Encourage Your Teen's Style

  • Find something to compliment him or her on. You may not like all the choices your teen made, but maybe there's one thing you can compliment.
  • Try to purchase gifts that align with his or her style as a way to show support. Buying gifts that do not align may be viewed as a sign of disapproval.
  • Talk to your child about the fashion choices you made as a teen. Show him or her photos if you have any. Have a good laugh about it, as it will help your teen see that everyone goes through an awkward phase.

Define Fashion Boundaries 

  • Outline what fashion choices are appropriate and inappropriate. Make sure your child understands what personal style options break the school's dress code and are not permitted.
  • Guide fashion choices based on the occasion. Help your child express him or herself even in situations such as a job interview, formal event like a wedding or funeral, or eating at a nice restaurant.

Teach Responsibility

  • Consider giving your teen a fashion budget. This will empower your child to make purchases within his or her budget, and will teach responsibility.
  • Discuss career options with your teen and what the dress code may be in a professional setting. Point out how social media images can be viewed by potential employers. Help your child understand how permanent personal style choices (such as a tattoo) may impact his or her future. Once your teen has that understanding, he or she can make a more informed choice.

Monitor Your Teen’s Behavior

  • Keep track of your teen’s school grades and performance to make sure his or her identity exploration is not negatively impacting his or her academics.
  • Meet your teen's friends. Are they making the same fashion choices? How do they behave when they are together?

Having good communication with your child will be critical. Find out why he or she is making the choices before you negatively judge your teen. Adolescence can be an awkward phase, and it will be so important that your teen knows you are there to support him or her through it.


Halloween Costumes + Social Media: A Scary Combination

October 30, 2014

By Jessica Vician

Halloween Costumes + Social Media: A Scary Combination | A teenage girl poses for a camera while dressed up for Halloween.

This story was originally published on A Platform For Good, a project of the Family Online Safety Institute that seeks to empower parents to raise engaged kids and good digital citizens.

If you’ve been in a grocery or super store lately, you know that Halloween is right around the corner. While younger kids tend to choose the most popular Halloween costume (think Minecraft this year), teenagers try to be more original. Regardless of the costume your teen chooses, its impact might be stronger after the Halloween party when photos are posted on social media. Help your teen consider both the implications of certain costumes and the importance of a positive digital reputation.

People love taking photos at costume parties. Your teen will likely take selfies and pose for photos and videos with friends that will end up on social media sites like Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine. As long as he or she has an appropriate costume and engages in responsible behavior, those posts should be fine.

But let’s say your teen decides to dress up in an Ebola containment suit costume for Halloween. Maybe he or she intended that costume to be an ironic take on a horrible outbreak, but the general public is already so offended by this particular costume that they are petitioning to remove it from stores. If someone posts a photo of your teen online, how do you think these people will react when they see him or her wearing the costume?

Last year, a woman dressed as a Boston Marathon bombing victim, posting a photo of herself on social media. Not only did her photo go viral, but also she was fired from her job and she and her parents received death threats from strangers who found their information online.

These days, a misguided costume choice isn’t just something your teen could regret for a couple days. Your family could be threatened and your teen’s reputation destroyed. Talk to him or her about costume choices and behavior to prevent digital regret. And while you’re at it, remind your teen of the importance of establishing a positive digital reputation and using privacy settings to his or her advantage. Before heading to the Halloween (or any) party, encourage your teen to consider:

  • Who can see his or her photos and those that friends post
  • What would happen if a teacher or administrator saw these photos
  • What would happen if a college admissions counselor or a boss saw these photos
  • What information your teen should be posting online to project the image he or she wants others to see

If you have never spoken to your teenager about his or her digital reputation before, that’s okay. Halloween is a great opportunity to start that conversation. Let your teen know that you trust his or her judgment, but good behavior on and offline is the best way to avoid digital regret and having his or her reputation damaged from inappropriate photos.


Fun in the Sun Facebook Contest Winner

September 17, 2014

Fun in the Sun

This summer we held a contest on our Facebook page, asking parents to post a photo of their child having fun in the sun. The parent whose photo had the most votes (and met all of the eligibility requirements), won an Amazon Kindle Fire, the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher ebook in English or Spanish, and a YOU Parent tote bag.

We spoke to the winner, Camy Lopez, about her family’s summer, parenting moments, and what she’s looking forward to this fall.

YOU Parent: What was the best part about this summer for Josue?
Camy Lopez: Last summer I enrolled Josue in swimming classes. He loved it so much and learned very quickly. He was disappointed when summer came to an end and he spent all year wishing it was summer again. This summer, he has spent most of his time swimming in our pool with his friends. He absolutely loves swimming. I am very glad he does since this is a great activity for exercising and is better than him staying inside playing video games or watching TV.

YP: Do you have a favorite summer tradition for your family?
CL: My favorite family summer tradition is getting together with all my family. We have a cookout at our house with games and music. I like this tradition because I am able to see all of my family, which is hard to do when school is in session and with everyone's busy schedules.

YP: What is your proudest moment as a parent?
CL: I have had numerous proud moments as a parent but I would have to say the most proud moment was when I battled breast cancer. After my surgery, my sons Josue and Jonathan took care of me. They would help me bathe, dress, and would cook for me. They did it with so much love that I was able to recuperate very fast. I had the best doctors in my house!

YP: What has been one of your most difficult moments as a parent?
CL: The most difficult moment as a parent was when my daughter, Carmina, passed away. She was only 15 years old. I had to live with the pain of her loss but had to remain strong for my sons. I knew they needed me during this difficult time. I taught them that they could overcome any situation no matter how difficult it may be. 

YP: How has YOU Parent helped you and your family?
CL: YOU Parent has made me realize how important it is to spend time with your children. It has made me want to spend more time with them and do the fun activities I find on YOU Parent has also helped me with parenting issues. I love all the advice I find on the website.

YP: Now that summer is ending, what is your family looking forward to this fall?
CL: The cooler weather. We live in California, so the summers here are very hot! We are also looking forward to Josue starting another school year and my other son Jonathan starting his senior year in college. My husband and I are so proud of them.

Congratulations, Camy, on winning the YOU Parent Fun in the Sun Contest! You deserve it. We wish you and your family a happy and healthy fall.

Stay up-to-date on future contests by following along on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram.

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