Does your teenage daughter have her clothes on? What does your social media profile picture say about you? Or more importantly, what does your teenager’s profile picture say about them?
My apologies in advance if this offends some readers, but I’m going to risk being straight to the point, as I am once again concerned that the online safety message is simply not getting through to parents!
I spend a considerable amount of time checking out the online activities of our local kids. Surprisingly, this is relatively easy to do; just follow or friend a few of your kids’ friends, then before you know it, anyone who is anyone chimes into the conversation and you get to see who’s who, who is posting what and how they present themselves online in kids’ social media land!
The one constant in monitoring online activity is how quickly you form an opinion (rightly or wrongly) about a person by their online profile picture, let alone what they post. The best example I stumbled across was a 14-year-old girl, whose profile picture was a close up of her cleavage in a lace bra! Call me conservative, but my reaction – amongst other things – was, “Come on, parents? Seriously not good enough!”
So, I put my profile pic concept to the test, and changed my Instagram “Profile Picture” to a photo of myself in a bikini when I was 12 years old! Admittedly, I was not quite the sexually developed teen in the example above (more like a lanky, awkward baby giraffe). But needless to say, the exercise proved to me that what you put out there can and does have an immediate effect on who you attract online!
Keeping in mind my account is private, to my surprise I was suddenly inundated with follow requests from complete strangers, friends of friends of friends of my daughters, plus men, boys and I’m sure men posing as boys, none of whom I know or intend to know, all thinking I was a young teen/tween. I then liked a few random photos of stranger’s pages, strangers that, well, weren’t really strangers in the minds of our kids, as they were friends of my friends, friends’ friends who also followed this page. Sure enough, more follow requests flowed into my account like a virus or pyramid selling scheme gone mad! I have to say for a moment I thought I was “so cool and oh so popular.” I really began to understand the psychology that goes on in a teen’s quest to increase their social standing by the measurement of how many followers they have.
So parents, what this exercise demonstrated is … we need to get vigilant! Stop and take a look at how your kids are presenting themselves online! Is it appropriate? Are they sending the right message about themselves to the world of strangers? Most importantly, does your 14-year-old daughter have her clothes on?
As the school years start, so does the need for our kids to feel socially connected their friends. So at the risk of repeating myself, now is a great time to check in with your kids and see what they are up to online, particularly if your kids are starting high school this year, as the whole online ball game changes as they are legally old enough to access popular social networking sites such as Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.
It’s worth thinking about the fact that social media is an adult world that your minor is playing in and what you, and more importantly, what your kids put out there is potentially what or who they will attract. It is a world that should really be rated at least M. It is the big league full of uncensored material and uncensored predators.
I can assure you that your child does not fully understand this, because to them the people they are friending and following are friends and friends of friends of friends, so that makes them OK … or does it?