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Mrs. Brinker weighs in on kids and social media

13News Education Expert Jennifer Brinker, the assistant principal at Greenwood Middle School, weighed in on the subject on Sunday's edition of 13Sunrise.

GREENWOOD, Ind. — Many parents know this battle well. We wrestle with allowing our children to use social media sites. And at what age is this appropriate? And, what are the dangers?

13News Education Expert Jennifer Brinker, the assistant principal at Greenwood Middle School, weighed in on the subject on Sunday's edition of 13Sunrise.

She said social media can be a fun tool for students to talk with friends and socialize. It can be used as a marketing tool for older students, as colleges and different places of employment will check it out when you apply. "I am afraid, though, that the dangers and risks are often either unknown to parents or they don’t think it will affect their child," said Mrs. Brinker.

Dustin Grove: What tops the list for the dangers and risks? 

Mrs. Brinker: Think of the internet and social media as a very busy public space like the airport or even the mall. Would you feel comfortable dropping your child off at one of these places alone to navigate it by themselves? Even though you aren’t physically doing that with social media, you are emotionally doing that. 

The first and most obvious risk would be online bullying. A recent study showed that 59% of students between the ages of 10-18 reported that they have experienced cyber bullying of some sort. This can lead to all sorts of problems and we all know that. It is a lot easier to say something online that is hateful than to someone’s face. What I think many parents don’t realize are the dangers of depression that go along with social media usage even if your child isn’t being bullied. 

People only generally show the best versions of themselves in their posts. Kids and teens by nature are hyper-critical of themselves. When they are constantly bombarded with images of what seem to be perfect people living perfect lives, their own self-esteem can tend to plummet and result in a sinking depression. It is important as parents to remind kids that what they see on social media really isn’t real at all. When we were kids, we only really had to compare ourselves to what we would see in magazines or from other kids at school, but it is a whole new world for our kids now. 

Dustin Grove: What about parents that are allowing their kids to use social media?

Mrs. Brinker: First I would suggest making sure that you know every app that is on your child’s phone. Open them regularly. There are plenty of inappropriate apps that can be disguised on the phone as something simple like a calculator but actually conceals inappropriate pictures. Research each social media app before you let your child on. Learn how to set privacy settings like location services so potential predators aren’t able to find your child’s location. Do your research. Know who all of their friends are on social media and check their pages out as well.  

It might sound like I am extreme or invasive with this, but I very frequently deal with the fallout of what can happen on social media. Talk with your child about expectations and dangers. Even the best of kids are still kids and can make some bad decisions from time to time.

Last but not least, do remember that there can be disciplinary action at school or legal consequences from what is posted on social media. If it all feels like something you are not ready to manage, then your child probably isn’t either.

You can watch Sunday's interview from 13Sunrise in the video player.


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