With more teens flocking to social networks outside of Facebook, it’s more important than ever for parents to understand—and coach their kids—through the rapid-moving, drama-filled environment of Twitter.
Twitter has become a hot spot for teens, many of whom view Tweets the same way they view texts. They tweet quickly and often. And, sometimes things get mean.
Twitter operates by a user opening a “Twitter” account and posting “tweets.” Tweets are sentences composed and then “posted or tweeted” within the limit of 140 characters. Photos, videos and links are usually attached to links. Twitter users “follow” other Twitter users and others follow them.
For teens, Twitter is fun, informative, and a great way to connect daily in stories, videos, music links, and funny photos. However, the problem arises when the 140-word “tweets” or banter become rapid, casual, and uninhibited. In some cases, some teen tweets cross the line and have landed them in court.
Twitter’s form and function is different from Facebook—so too is the social vibe of the platform. Because tweets are shared so rapidly, using Twitter creates the illusion that a user is somehow anonymous or even forgiven for the casual, snarky, off-color, or mean tweet. Still, it’s all public and even if a user deletes a tweet, it may have already been shared, which takes it out of the user’s control—forever.
This makes Twitter a magnet for cyber bulling, sexting, and teen drama.
5 things to teach your kids about Twitter:
- Understand Twitter. First, know the environment yourself so you can coach your kids. For many teens, Twitter has become a group texting channel. Get to know the lingo. Words like Hashtags, blocks, ReTweets, @ symbols, DMs are simple terms you may want to know. Here’s a quick Twitter lingo guide.
- Twitter is a public stage. Remind your kids they are not alone on Twitter but on a stage where an audience of people can see their tweets. They can’t take a tweet back even if they delete it and be assured it’s gone. Teach them to be mindful of photos they post, and links they recommend. This is a great opportunity to talk about values, gossip, cyber bullying, critical thinking, drama, and smart communication. Repeat to them often: “Think before you tweet.” Put consequences in place before your kids abuse their Twitter privilege. Talk to them about Twitter cases in the news and the many ways their words can come back to haunt them.
- Manage conflict. Twitter’s fast pace can be a landmine where small tweets can ignite into big offenses. Teach your kids to respond well and steer conversations upward. Teach them how to first ignore, then to block. Also, teach them to define gossip and not to re-tweet false information.
- Report abuse. Reiterate to your kids that they need to come to you with conflicts that arise online. You can also visit Twitter’s Safety Center. Teach your kids how to handle “haters, flamers, and trolls,” which are all words that refer to malicious people online. Depending on the situation, you can report the situation to Twitter, report the offense to your child’s school administrators, talk to parents of students directly involved, or, if it’s a serious enough online encounter, report it to your local police.
- Filter social networks. Twitter, like any other social network is a hotbed for pornography, predators, and questionable links, videos and photos. Be prepared with powerful filtering solutions and make sure your kids understand why the family has to have filters.