Tech Talk: Parenting, Teens, and Instagram

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Tech Talk with Lisa Hendey/Son Rise Morning Show (CatholicMom.com)

On a recent episode of the Son Rise Morning Show, we discussed a recent New York Times opinion column about teens and Instagram that’s striking a chord with some parents. What was the topic and why does this matter?

  • This column featured the musings of a mom who is parenting a fifteen-year-old daughter. She describes her daughter’s increasing isolation within the family, but then shares how a glance at her Instagram gives her a peek into her daughter’s world.
  • A few issues raised by the op-ed include teens’ desire for private time to develop their own identity, parents’ desire to have a relationship with their teens, and the new dynamics of relationships when parenting in the digital age.
The mom who penned this op-ed describes the sense of isolation she feels in her relationship with her daughter. Is this new in the age of social media?
  • I was that teen who received a personal telephone line and a phone with an extra long cord for a birthday in high school. I would take the phone into my closet and chat with friends (and a boyfriend!) for hours each evening.
  • This being said, the advances of technology and the studies showing screen time impacts on children’s developing brains adds a new dynamic to an age-old issue.
  • One interesting component of this article is that the mother requests “permission” to connect with her daughter’s private Instagram account. This raises the issue of what privileges teens should have when using social media.
We hear about some teens and young adults “finsta” using accounts. What is this all about?
  • Some users, including teens, create fake Instagram accounts to post items that they do not want made public.
  • Per Urban Dictionary, “A finsta is a combination of the words Fake & Insta(gram). When people have a finsta they post pictures they only want their closest friends seeing instead of their regular Instagram (rinsta) followers to see. Usually a girl has a finsta and boys aren’t supposed to follow it. Finstas aren’t supposed to be taken seriously and it doesn’t matter how many posts or followers you have. Finstas are mainly kept private and have funny or clever usernames.”
You received some great advice from a trusted Youth Ministry professional on this topic. Can you share a few of her insights?
    • Parents should keep an open and trusting conversation with their teens about all things, including use of social media.
    • Avoid the two extremes in overseeing social media behavior: parents who secretly monitor their teens’ usage without their knowledge and parents who completely assume their children have no interest in social media.
    • The youth minister counsels that if you are going to monitor their behavior, explain how and why you will be doing this.
    • Do not be afraid to be the parent who is considered “mean” by your child: “Bottom line, don’t be afraid to fight for your child, even when that means fighting with them.”
    • Jump to more of this youth minister’s advice to parents.
So what are a few of the bottom line options parents can choose between when it comes to teens and social media?
  • Permit social media usage only in an age appropriate fashion and discuss safe and spiritually healthy use of social media.
  • Respect your teen’s boundaries, but counsel them on the real world implications of their behavior.
  • Stay abreast of trends in social media.
  • Implement family screen time limits.
In other social media news, there has been a serious security issue on Google Plus. What is your recommendation for folks who have used that platform?
    • Per Wired, “On Monday, Google announced that an additional bug in a Google+ API, part of a November 7 software update, exposed user data from 52.5 million accounts.”
    • Google + is being decommissioned in April, 2019, but users can (and probably should) immediately delete their profile by going to Plus.Google.com/Downgrade and following the instructions to delete their profile.

Listen to the full audio:

A Youth Minister’s Advice for Parents

“I appreciate you Lisa! For what it’s worth, I encourage parents to have open dialogue with their teens. If they are old enough to have that smart phone then they are old enough to hear your very serious and real concerns about who/what you could encounter on the internet. Share with them that you feel they are drifting away from you and you want to be apart of their lives (if you’re the mom from that article). Share with them that the whole concept of “guarding your heart” and not sharing too much of who you are with the people who haven’t earned that level of trust and respect DEFINITELY applies to the internet.

When it comes to respecting their privacy – I encounter two extremes constantly. The mom who doesn’t want their kid to know so has all these secret backdoor apps to see what their kid is doing at all times and the mom who thinks there is no way my child even has snapchat so there’s no reason to ever check. In my experience, both of these approaches lead to severe wounds for both the teen and parent. In the first scenario, eventually they will find out and will lose all trust in the relationship because they feel betrayed. In the second, their actions and words go unchecked until something truly terrible happens and it gets back to the parent from the school or another concerned parent who checks their childs accounts. In either scenario there is no room for open honest conversation so that you can still parent and guide them as they continue to learn how to navigate life.

If you’re going to track them, tell them. And explain WHY. That you love them and are concerned and only want to help them so that they can be the best they possibly can. And please, please, please, do NOT be afraid to make them mad at you. That will be temporary, the respect they will have for you after the fact will out weigh the contempt in the moment. Bottom line, don’t be afraid to fight for your child, even when that means fighting with them.”

Read more of our Tech Talk columns.


Copyright 2018 Lisa Hendey

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About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at www.LisaHendey.com for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.

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