What you don’t know about your teens: online

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Cyberbullying…sexting…and online sexual behavior…you’ve heard the warnings for your teens but don’t believe your child could be involved. But the statistics tell a different story. Someone’s children are taking part, and they could be yours. Tonight we investigate what you don’t know about your teens and their online activities.

“Your kid might not be the one that’s doing it, but maybe your child is of the kids receiving this image,” Riley County Police Officer Matt Droge told Kansas First News.

The man known as #TwitterCop is well schooled in social media’s impact on kids. He says sexting is a serious issue, especially since most teens don’t realize that they could be committing a crime. A 2008 survey of teens revealed that 20% of teens have sent or posted nude or seminude photos or videos of themselves. Teens seem to think using an app like Snapchat means the evidence of their inappropriate behavior disappears in seconds. But rival apps like Snaphack or a simple screen shot can preserve their sexual selfies.

“The big, big concern is the use of social media for risky sexual behavior,” Dr. Dennis Cooley, former president of the Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics explained.

Nearly 30% of Dutch teens engaged in online sexual risk behavior according to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Cooley points out that 75% of teens have cell phones, and 20% of them are surfing social media sites at least 10 times a day. Facebook depression is a relatively new phenomenon.

“Children that we are starting to see now are showing classic signs of depression who have been on these social media sites frequently,” Dr. Cooley said.

Droge says you may monitor your child’s Facebook, but that may not be their main social media stream.

“Comically enough, Facebook is not used by younger kids as much as it used to be,” Officer Droge said. “A lot of that I imagine would have to do with parents are on Facebook, the police department is on Facebook. It might not seem cool anymore.”

Cyberbullying is another very real online enemy facing teens today. Your child may be a victim or they could be the bully.

“This type of bullying can be devastating for kids,” Droge said. “High school wasn’t fun for me, and we didn’t have all this communication that kids now have.”

Eighty percent of kids think it is easier to hid online bullying from parents than in-person bullying.

“I would expect that as a parent if your child is going out on a Saturday night you’re asking ‘Where are you going and what are you doing’ and the same should be done when we are on the internet,” Dr. Cooley advised.

Both Officer Droge and Dr. Cooley are quick to point out that it’s not the internet that’s bad. In fact, according to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, most teenagers behaved responsibly online. Droge says it’s about teaching your children to make good decisions, and Dr. Cooley urges parents to monitor kids’ social media use.

Find more detailed information on these studies published by the American Academy of Pediatrics: The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families and Identifying Teens at Risk: Developmental Pathways of Online and Offline Sexual Risk Behavior. Also visit Internet Safety 101.

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