Tweens and social media can mean trouble

The National Association of Attorneys General, headed by Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, has announced a partnership with Facebook to make kids aware of and safety and privacy issues concerning social media.

I wish them the best of luck. I recently had a peek into the sordid world of tween social media and it is not a pretty sight. I saw the messages my son and his friends were sending to each other and have now taken away all his electronic devices — cell phone, iPad and unsupervised computer privileges.

Let me give you some context. I teach online journalism to college kids. I require my students to sign up to Facebook and Twitter. Social media are essential tools for businesses to get their messages across to an audience.

But it is social media’s ability to reach vast audiences and leave a lasting impression that also makes these programs dangerous. I was shocked at the inappropriate language, the sexual banter and the bullying I saw in my sons’ messages. If you haven’t checked out your kids’ social media posts, do it. Tweens have no right to privacy on social media.

And while Facebook might get all the attention, my son and his friends are using other programs such as Oovoo and Instagram and plain phone texts.

I don’t know when I’ll give my son back his devices, but I have told him it will be a long time before I will let him use social media to talk to his friends.

Every day we see adults making fools of themselves over Twitter messages, so it’s not surprising children lack judgment. But as parents, we can control the devices and read what our kids are writing. I know one mother who makes spot checks on her teen-age daughter’s cell phone, making her stop in mid text to hand over the phone for inspection.

You think it’s harsh or unfair? Take a look for yourself.

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