“Let me check my map to see where she is.”
Last night, I sat with a group of high school girls while we were waiting for others to show up. One of the girls pulled out her phone, touched her “Find My Friends” app, and all of a sudden, the photos of several of her closest people showed up, all around town.
Find My Friends is a technology trend that teenagers have quickly jumped on board. They can now find out where any of their friends are at any given moment. The girls went on to tell me how helpful it was, because you could click on a friend’s photo, and it would give you directions to exactly where she or he is at that particular moment.
Sounded a little concerning to me…
They went on to explain how you could tell when someone would get to your house to pick you up, be at the restaurant for dinner, and various other conveniences I can’t even imagine having when I was a teenager. The good news is that they do have to approve their friends, before they are able to add them on “find my friends.” The bad news is that many teenagers (and younger) still have a hard time distinguishing between “real friends” and “virtual friends” and could inadvertently add someone that might not need to know their exact location.
As with all technological things, we need to be in conversation with the kids we love.
Find My Friends, however, is the “safer” (according to these girls) version of the latest version of Snapchat. The girls went on to describe Snapchat Maps to me, and even show me the maps on their phones.
“When they updated Snapchat, it was just there (the map). All of a sudden, your location was displayed with your bitmoji, and so were all of your other friends on Snapchat. You could tell exactly where they were, and even if they were in a car driving from one location to another. It was automatically enabled with the new update. You have to turn it off, if you don’t want people to be able to see where you are.” The girls then showed me various friends, even in various countries, who were on spring break.
The world is getting too small in so many ways. And too exposed…or, at least, the world of social media is making it that way.
If your child is on Snapchat, have a conversation with them about the Maps feature. If they’re an older teen, ask why they feel that feature is important. Have them tell you about the safety concerns contained therein, and then make a decision together if Maps is appropriate for them to have on, or not. If your child is a younger teenager, Maps may not be the best idea. With all technology, we want to let the rope out gradually, and give them more freedom as they earn it. Give them time on snapchat, to show that they can be responsible with the app itself, with who they “friend”, and with photos and videos they send, before they share their location with the Maps feature.
The girls all talked about how hard it can be to see friends “in the same circle”, which is how Snapchat shows when several users are together. So, now the kids we love don’t just see that they’re being left out on Instagram and Snapchat stories, now they also see it literally on a map. Talk about those concerns, too. What is your child going to do when his or her feelings are hurt (because they will be, at some point)? What can he or she remember? And how can they be mindful of being aware of others, so that they don’t do the same? It’s helpful for kids to have anchoring truths, such as “Just because I’m not with them doesn’t mean they don’t like me.” “Everyone has smaller group gatherings sometimes.” “_______, _______, and _______ are real friends to me.”
And it’s helpful to continue to talk to the kids we love about what makes a true friend…in the real and the virtual world. In the Are My Kids on Track book, we call them Balcony, Basement, and Roller Coaster friends. Who are those for your child…the ones that cheer them on from the balcony? The ones that try to pull them down from the basement? And the ones who seem to live on a roller coaster between the two? And what kind of friend is your child, as well?
We want to not only be protecting them from hurt on social media, but we also want to be teaching them to show kindness to others…wherever they are on the map. Follow along for more Technology Tuesday’s and parenting tips at raisingboysandgirls.com. And see when we’re headed your way for a parenting class near you!