There’s a new pandemic sweeping over the nation. It’s not THAT pandemic, yet it’s just as important for parenting teens and kids in a world of social media. What pandemic is this, you ask?
We’re talking about the “Not My Kid” pandemic that has crept into many homes across the country.
It starts with the simple thought, “I have a good kid. They would never do anything bad online," and the roots take hold. Over time, it infiltrates a family dynamic, pushing kids and parents further apart.
It's not a question of IF but WHEN negative content will find your kid on social media.
Here's a story of how quickly it can start:
Jeff, our CEO, started scrolling through his Instagram reels. Suddenly, a vulgar reel popped into his feed. Shocked by what he was seeing, he paused in horror before scrolling away. A few videos later, another reel with mature sexual content came into his feed. The same shock and horror stopped his scroll for a few moments. Within a few days, the majority of his feed was overwhelmed with explicit reels Instagram was actively pushing to him.
Why would Instagram flood his feed with explicit content when he didn’t want it?
The answer is simple.
Instagram (and most social media apps) want to keep users on the platform, so it pushes out reels and posts planned to hook the viewer. The algorithm tracks how long they stay on the video or post (in technical terms, it’s called dwell time). The longer the dwell time, the more it signals the social media algorithm to keep putting that content in front of the user.
That’s what happened to Jeff.
Instagram captured him with the shock and horror of an explicit video to stop his scroll.
After that, the algorithm took over and he couldn’t escape.
Now, we get it. Your first thought is probably to rip away your kid’s smartphone and deactivate all their social media accounts. Yet, this doesn’t solve anything, especially if this has already happened to your kid.
How you can prepare your kid to face the possible dangers of social media?
It starts with just two steps.
1) Stop thinking “not my kid.” Right now.
It’s comforting to assume our kids know enough to avoid coming across harmful or inappropriate content on social media. While we grew up in a world where sexual content had to be sought out, the growth of social media means that reality no longer exists for our kids.
It’s not a question anymore of IF but WHEN.
Take Jeff’s story. He wasn’t seeking out those reels; they were actively pushed in front of him by Instagram's algorithm. All it took was a few moments of shock until he was pulled into a vulgar corner of the app.
If it happened to him, it could definitely happen to your kid.
2) Have a conversation. Especially with the “good kid” in the family.
Wait, what? Wouldn’t that kid need the least guidance?
It’s tempting to think that but EVERY kid in your family needs to be part of the conversation.
- Without creating panic, help your kids understand the risks of social media. While we know that the benefits of social media are many, prepare them for the fact that they may come across negative content during their time spent on social media.
- EXPLICITLY explain that no matter what happens, you are there to guide them through any negative experience without shame or judgment. It’s not enough to assume your kid will know they can come to you for help; it must be stated over and over, out loud.
This is why it’s vital to include the “good kid” in the conversation.
They're scrolling a social media app. Suddenly, it pushes explicit content into their feed for the first time. Naturally, their shock and horror stops their scroll and the algorithm kicks into high gear. Suddenly, they find themselves trapped like Jeff.
What happens if they don’t explicitly know you’ll give judgment-free guidance?
- Shame builds up because even though they didn’t seek it out, this content found them.
- Anxiety that they’ll be blamed for something that was NOT their fault creeps in.
- Fear that they will be viewed differently takes hold, keeping them from saying something.
Instead of finding comfort with you, they feel they have to hide. Shame builds barriers and eats away at their mental health.
What could’ve prevented this?
Open conversations with EVERYONE in the family.
So, now you know.
It’s time to stop thinking “not my kid” and start saying “how do I prepare my kid?”
Assuming your kid would never find harmful content online doesn’t help them. In fact, it could hurt them. Let’s take a thoughtful approach to technology and parenting and toss this idea out. It’s time to be proactive by preparing your kids and having open conversations with them repeatedly.
What if you could be the first person they turn to instead of the last one?
Tired of feeling in the dark? Want a phone that shows you EVERYTHING your kid does?
You need the Aqua One.