More Apps, More Experimenting, More Tween-Teen Public Mistakes

Image snapped on my mobile device.

Image snapped on my mobile device.

Read Washington Post reporter Cecilia Kang’s April 6, 2013 article, Instagram Beauty Contests Worry Parents, Privacy Advocates, a piece that brings teachers and parents up to date on the current Instagram beauty contest craze among tweens and younger teens.

It’s all so simple. Combine normal growing up with unsupervised digital device apps and add in kids’ occasionally poorly thought-out decisions — and you have a recipe for problems. Many educators, who are aware on a daily basis of the increasing difficulties created by kids’ freewheeling app use, will tell you that it’s predictable. Also, it’s destructive to 21st Century learning communities.

An April 4, 2013 post, Beauty Is Only Skin Deep but Instagram Is to the Bone, by Huffington Post blogger Holly Actman Becker, offers a chatty but detailed romp through the current beauty contest experience from a mom’s perspective and with an interesting result. (Note: I enjoyed reading this post, but if you prefer your prose formal and straight-laced, this isn’t for you. I also wonder just how the author did not know that the minimum age is 13?)

Make no mistake –I love my digital devices. I enjoy using them, talking about them, and sharing information about how they work with my students. Moreover, I do not believe that children and adolescents should have their mobile devices taken away. (OK, a few of these children do need to have an old-fashioned time out from their new-fangled gadgets.) 

Unfortunately many kids possess, in effect, the keys to the car — oops I mean the keys to the app stores. They are downloading powerful apps, not one of which was invented for teens and tweens to use, and most of these mini-programs clearly state in the terms of use that they are not to be used by anyone younger than age 13.

So now the apps — in this case Instagram — together with kids’ developmentally appropriate mistakes cause embarrassing and often hurtful problems. And this is happening to good kids whose only real problem is that adults have given them almost unlimited access to a digital arena that teens and tweens are developmentally unprepared to understand.

Each new app on the scene causes new difficulties, some of them extremely publicly humiliating. Read my post Getting to Know Instagram, Bringing Adults Up to Speed.

Until recently kids’ growing-up mistakes and the resulting problems were made in a fairly private environment. But now, when combined with apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, and other quick-exchange mobile apps — the privacy has vanished.

The answer here is fairly simple. Parents need to take back the keys to the iPhones and iPads and computers, and ensure that their children and younger adolescents have as few opportunities as possible to run their devices without benefit of parent guidance and oversight. And each family needs to have a clear and simple rules-of-the road for all digital devices. You can read and earlier blog post about various types of digital device user contracts.

Best Quote from the Post Article

Most parents are just throwing their arms up in the air because the new platforms are coming and going so fast, it’s hard to get your head around it.

Best Quote from the Huff Post Piece

… it’s time for us to take our collective blinders off and really pay attention. Because the minute we give our kids an iPhone or iPod or any other gadget that puts technology quite literally in the palms of their hands, we become responsible for whatever happens next.

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