Let's Talk Tween

Information and insight about kids ages 8-12 (the "in between" years)

TweenSpeak: A Life in Pictures and Video

Why tweens have turned to photos and videos to journal their daily lives

It’s hard to remember a time when social networking did not exist. Although it has only been a decade or so, today’s tweens do not know a world without such access. If your tween is particularly savvy when it comes to social networking then it is a sure bet you aware of how sites such as Instagram, tumblr and Vine seem to rule her daily living.

Do you find that you cannot go anywhere or do anything, like go out for a nice family dinner for example, without your tween snapping a photo or streaming video? If you are nodding ‘yes’ then perhaps you will find some satisfaction in knowing you are far from alone.

Back before the Internet existed tween girls and boys wrote their thoughts and observations in diaries and journals hidden under their mattresses or in secret hidden corners in their rooms. These running accounts of their daily lives were rarely shared with the outside world perhaps with the exception of a close friend, a true bff.

Back before the days of social networking, life seemed more quiet and solitary. We did not have to worry so much about what we were doing or saying unless we were going out in public. Thanks to technology however, we live life in real time. It seems we are potentially always “on.”

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Although as adults we find this bothersome and annoying, longing for the days when privacy was common, our tweens have been raised in a world of real time. And while it may be perplexing to understand why your tween thinks that the free world really cares about what she ate for dinner, she consistently clicks, streams and posts the pictures and videos none-the-less.

Our tweens express themselves differently than we did. Our tweens talk amongst each other’s in pictures and videos. The written word has in many cases been replaced by visual displays of what our tweens are thinking and feeling in real time. Posts of pictures and videos are responded to with comments and “likes.”

It is easy to assume that this shift has resulted in a generation of self-absorbed individuals. When you count the number of “selfies” (pictures taken by oneself of oneself) it is an understandable conclusion. This however, is not necessarily the case. Tweens are not only interested in the pictures and videos they post of themselves, but they are also invested in the posts of friends and acquaintances. This is evident by the stream of comments offered in response to any given post.

Often the interest goes beyond people they actually know in their daily lives. Social networking ‘friends’ can come from all over the world. While the sites tweens use come equipped with privacy settings, even tweens who are actively monitored can collect thousands of followings. It’s all about perspective. Your tween may never personally meet that friend of a friend of a friend but he may still exchange comments with her on posted pictures and videos.

As a parent the monitoring process can become overwhelming. The good news is that with all that talking and warning, our tweens have been positively impacted. The majority of tweens know not to post personal information on these sites such as their address and/or phone number. Although the site may request this information they are using in order to set up a new account. A quick review of the privacy policy however, usually reveals that this type of information is indeed kept confidential. Of course it is all still relative. If you believe that what your tween ate for breakfast or wore to her school dance is private well, then, you may need to have a chat with her.

All this picture snapping, and video streaming can also feel like an invasion of privacy. I mean who wants to be caught off guard when they are first waking up? Most tweens however, are not interested in posting pictures of their parents although siblings are certainly fair game. It is therefore important to emphasize that your tween ask permission to post. As a parent of a photo journaling or video streaming tween, it is imperative that you have access to your tween’s pages so you can monitor what he is posting. Tweens and parents sometimes have a different perspective on what is okay to post.

The language of tween, tweenspeak, is dominated by visual expressions of thoughts and feelings. Social networking sites that feature pictures and videos offer vehicles of expression to tweens giving new meaning to the phrase “a picture paints a thousand words.” As parents it is important that we are attuned and ‘listening’. Watching has essentially become the new way to truly listen.

Jennifer Powell-Lunder, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist and parenting expert specializing in work with tweens, teens, young adults, and their families.

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