This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: What’s Good and Bad about Tech for Teens, Interview with Leah Nieman. This post is running concurrently on the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.
What’s Good and Bad about Tech for Teens, Interview with Leah Nieman
Many of us homeschool moms are *digital immigrants*, we were around in the days before the internet and always feel like we are a step behind our kids in the things going on in the digital world. Our kids, on the other hand, are *digital natives* and tend to be very comfortable there. We moms worry about the safety of our children and teens when they are online.
That’s why I asked our friend and fellow homeschool mom, Leah Nieman (our favorite technology expert) to join us for a realistic discussion about the world of technology for those of us homeschool moms who are not experts ourselves. She shares with us what’s good and bad about tech for teens.
The key issues that parents need to know about the online world include:
- Education of parents
- Leah reminds us that where the parents are the teens don’t want to go. When parents are on Facebook, kids go to Instagram, then Snapchat, etc. So we need to stay up to date on information and maintain open communication with our homeschool high schoolers (and youngers).
- Education of teens
- Appropriate behavior in online classrooms,
- Appropriate behavior and company outside the classroom
- Safety on social platforms
What’s Good and Bad about Tech for Teens: Social Apps
It’s easy to read bad reports on the internet about social apps that only cover bad news. However, we don’t have to go to extremes and keep our homeschoolers off all social media. Rather, we need to be discerning and wise. When our young people come to us and want to download a new app, do some research and discuss what you find with them.
Parents should research:
- What are the privacy settings. Can I limit who sees my child’s information?
- Can I block and eliminate this app if it proves to be a poor choice?
- Is my child’s location private?
- Is the app targeted to kids but has *content buckets* (content buckets are sections of the app for different ages, children in one bucket, adults in another bucket). Can adults jump out of their content bucket into your kid’s bucket?
- An example: Some apps have 2 content buckets. It’s easy for adults to get out of their bucket into the younger people’s bucket. This raises safety concerns because a young person may take at face value that a person is who they say they are. Vicki, in her job as mental health counselor has worked with young teens who thought they were talking with a peer on a social app but found out the hard way they were dealing with a predator.
Parents should keep conversations going:
When we parents are uneducated or overwhelmed we often want to stop the conversation about technology. However, we need to watch out when conversation stops! Kids get their information from peers if it doesn’t come from parents. Although we are uncomfortable we need to lean into uncomfortable topics by:
- Being curious, ask questions
- What do you like about it?
- What is the draw for you?
- Listening and allowing your kids to educate you. (Also, do your own research at LeahNieman.com)
- Understand first, then ask questions.
- Being open about your feelings, listen and be educated
- Any topic we avoid is an open entry for danger
Some social apps that middle school and high schoolers use (don’t forget, mom, stay in the conversation with your homeschoolers about social apps:
- Yubo (known as tender for teens). Here’s Leah’s informative post on Yubo.
- Live.ly Live.me
- These are for live streaming and live broadcasting
- Live streaming: Like Facebook Lives, a person presents a topic. It is not spontaneous.
- Live broadcasting is about connecting with peers, it is done in a stream of consciousness fashion, the intent is to connect, to create a social event. This can be a concern: who are your teens connecting with? Teens issue challenges like: Hey, do a dance, sing a song… and that is broadcast to the community. This can put a teen in a vulnerable position because of their lack of experience, discernment and natural impulsivity. Live broadcasting is popular with teens because they are targeted to teens, appeal to teens by connecting them. )
- These are for live streaming and live broadcasting
- Tiktok is a top-ten download in Apple store. It was formerly called Music.ly.
- Tiktok hass big draw for young kids (guidelines are supposed to be age 13 but many younger kids are on the app).
- Young people create little videos and skits to music that is provided daily in a challenge. Kids like it because it has interactive community.
- The concern for parents is the privacy. Adults (strangers) are present on Tiktok. They can direct message your kids and share out onto other platforms.
- Kids can create own accounts without parents knowing. They usually don’t know how to set privacy settings.
- Leah talks about about setting up test account and is immediately asked for follows by young children who are yielding to pressure to grow their audience.
How do you keep kids safe:
- Social media audits. Leah offers this as a service to help parents keep their kids safe. We will discuss this on another episode in a few weeks.
The digital world is not all terrifying. There are great apps that are great tools for education. We call it *gamified learning*. Check out Leah’s blog series with LOTS of great educational apps.
Some apps are good for tacking educational progress:
It’s a low pressure way to build skills, remediate and track progress. For example:
- Spelling apps
- Coding apps
Some apps are productivity apps.
- As families with high schoolers, we can benefit with having a coordinated calendar app.
- Project apps. Break down projects and progress through them.
- When homeschool high schoolers learn productivity with an app, they can take that skill to college.
- Leah loves using these apps herself. Google One-note to import her research and break down tasks. Then she puts the tasks on Google Task. She has a whole list of cool organization apps for teens.
- Companies use Trello and Asana. Teens can benefit from learning how to use these as a resume builder. Team building experience and communication skills building. Digital soft skill building.
- When information and tasks are gamified or made visually available, they progress better.
- Hey, need a break from digital? Get yourself and your teens organized with, how-to-organize projects guide: Scheduling Backwards. We LOVE it!
Check out this series on real-life, practical apps for homeschool families.
Leah also discussed the popularity of online games for teens. Leah likes online gaming. Here are her guidelines:
- Know who they are playing with (just like you would never just drop teens off to an activity without knowing anything about it or who they will be with)
- Make sure the gaming environment is safe.
- Supervision and guidance is important. In other words, don’t avoid the conversations. Be curious, listen, the guide for safety. Kids like to talk about their online friendships, if we keep the communication doors open. We parents need to be interested and approachable so they feel free to talk.
- Keep the balanced lifestyle. They need sunshine and exercises as much as they need their games. They need to do their lessons and do their activities of daily living (eating, chores, self-care). This is the modern version of teens only wanting to watch television all day long back in the 1970s.
- Gaming is a good way to connect with their friends, they are genuinely interacting and helping each other. Digital soft skills development as individuals and teamwork.
Join Vicki and Leah for this enlightening discussion of what’s good and bad about tech for teens.
Visit Leah at:
LeahNieman.com (Sign up for Leah’s newsletter there and get a free set of conversation-starter questions.)
Facebook (lots of up to date information, current issues)
Youtube (SOOO much good information!)
You’ll also love our friend, Meryl’s podcast right here on Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network: Homeschooling with Technology!
For more on homeschooling in imperfect circumstances, check out this Homeschool Highschool Podcast episode.
Also, check out this interview with Melanie Wilson about handling screen time with teens.
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HSHSP Ep 178: What’s Good and Bad about Tech for Teens, Interview with Leah Nieman