Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Boston Children’s Hospital’s media expert and director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Send him a media-related parenting question via firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston.
Q: I was on Facebook the other day and noticed that my friend’s teens had Facebook profiles. I could see the entire profile of one (pictures, information, posts, etc.), while I only had limited access to the other (basically just her name and one picture). This made me wonder, what are the privacy options on Facebook? And what privacy settings do you suggest teens use? My teen has a Facebook profile, and I want to make sure her information is only visible to her real-life friends and that her privacy is protected.
~ Perplexed about privacy, Los Altos, CA
A: Dear Perplexed,
As a parent in the digital domain, you are on the right track by looking into what online platforms your child is using and the safety issues surrounding those platforms. Just because a child has turned 13 and is legally able to have her own social media site does not mean that she has the knowledge or skills to function on that site in ways that are safe, healthy, and consistent with good citizenship. …
Q:We have stopped our 17-year-old daughter from using Facebook a number of times due to angry and inappropriate postings. We put unrecognizable passwords in, but she keeps creating or restarting Facebook pages. I believe she has one now, and I can’t find it. She has probably blocked me. Is there any way of totally blocking Facebook from our home? She is unable to control her reactions and what she says. We are at a loss.
– Facebook Frazzled in Acton, MA
A: Dear Frazzled,
Frankly, it is difficult, if not impossible, to block Facebook from her (remember, in the days of smartphones and free wifi sites, blocking from your home is not enough). However, it sounds as if keeping your daughter off of Facebook—even if you did manage it—wouldn’t solve the problem. Her angry posts probably reflect what she’s feeling in real life, and it sounds like she’s looking for an outlet for those feelings.
It is important to remember where your daughter is developmentally as a teenager. At this stage, it is normal for your daughter to be exercising her independence and expressing how she feels. Social media sites serve these developmental needs well because they can be crafted by each user. The best way to address your daughter’s postings is by opening the doors of communication and engaging her in a conversation about them. …
A new study published in Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine suggests that the majority of college students who post on Facebook about drunkenness and dangerous drinking habits are also at a higher risk for alcohol abuse and dependence.
The message seems fairly obvious, but the real interesting takeaway of the study is the researchers’ suggestions about how that information could be used. …
Recently I went to a Verizon store to upgrade my phone (to an iPhone!). I had my 10-year-old and 5-year-old with me, as my big kids weren’t available for babysitting; this will be quick, I told them.
Of course (in that Murphy’s Law kind of way) it wasn’t quick at all; I had to wait more than twenty minutes for someone to help me. But Natasha and Liam didn’t mind. They went straight to the iPads on display, and navigated them without any help from me. Natasha found a puzzle application and started putting puzzles together. Liam found a drum set application and started making up songs, adding his own lyrics and dance moves.
As I watched them so fully and happily engaged in activities that required concentration and creativity, I thought (as I have so many times): there’s a lot that’s good about digital media.
We pediatricians tend to be very negative about “screens” when we talk with families. We stress the 2-hour limit to help prevent obesity. We warn about Facebook depression, exposure to violence and sex, cyberbullying and online predators. We talk about how texting can keep kids up at night and how video games can contribute to ADHD.
Don’t get me wrong: these are important messages. There are very real risks associated with the internet and media. We need to keep kids healthy and safe; that’s our job as pediatricians and parents. But when we are just negative, we miss two important points: …