Published June 19th, 2022
Gen-Z — Our Voice
Another entry from the Youth Equity Project: Art of the Podcast Residency with Aviation High School Podcast Club!
In this wide-ranging conversation about setting limits on a minor's social media use, an anxious parent comes to the teenagers of Aviation High School with a dilemma: what are appropriate limits to set for my child's online life and how do I balance my child's expectations for privacy vs. safety in the modern internet age? Students and adults engage in a healthy discussion about teenage expression, privacy, and risk-taking in the modern age.
This History UnErased podcast series is funded by the New York City Council and developed in partnership with Houses on the Moon Theater Company.
Syed: Hello, everyone. My name is Syed.
Brittany: My name is Brittany.
Cindy: My name is Cindy.
Syed: And this is Gen Z — Our Voice. So today we're going to talk about something that's... I guess very current and relevant. It's something that a lot of teenagers go through, obviously, and all of parents actually, go through this too, because of us. It's because they're living through teenage again. If their kids are going through it, they're basically getting those experiences, like those tantrums and everything. So I feel like
they're living through it. But a lot of the times parents want to keep an eye on their kids, what they're doing on the internet? What kind of social media do they have? What are they searching on their browser? And honestly, I'm going to tell you guys something, your mind's going to be blown. I didn't get my first phone until the end of freshman year.
Syed: My first ever phone and my first ever Instagram account was sophomore year.
Brittany: So basically, my mom, she was like, "Oh, no phone till high school," because she was scared that's going to distract me. But then the fact that I already have an iPad, what's the difference?
Cindy: Mine was a different, my dad, gave me my first phone when I was like, I think in fourth grade. I was... Yeah, but it was just because I would always go to my aunt's house. So just for them to talk to me, they would use that phone. Right? Yeah. I think it was a bad decision from the study.
Syed: Honestly, my parents, we knew that we needed to come some sort of communication, but can you believe it was so crazy I'd go to places, and they'll have no communication with me without a phone and they were still weren't confused. They still weren't convinced that I should get a phone. They'll tell me to do these crazy things, stop a stranger and borrow their phone, do the payphone that this is when we
had payphones in New York, we don't have them anymore. They took them out. But when we used to have payphone, they were like, "Use the payphone, call us from there," I'm like, "Isn't it just easier to use a phone? Instead of going out my way." We'd go on the train and sometimes we won't know where we're going. So you need Google Maps, right? They'd really just ask a stranger. Half the people here don't know anywhere else about where they're going. So it guess a little confusing. And honestly, once I did get my phone, then they wanted to, what are you doing? And my mom wants to act like, "Oh yeah, I'm totally. I have faith in you, I have trust in you." But I know what she's trying to do. She'll try to sneak up on me from the back to see what I'm doing. And I'm like, "Mom, I'm in the middle of nowhere. What are bad thing can I do?"
Brittany: I share my location with my mom. She's like, "Oh, can you share a location with me just in case of an emergency." Sometimes she just randomly pull out the phone and start looking at where I am. I thought it's emergency or something.
Syed: Let me tell you a story. Since we have Life360, so all the members of it can see where all the members are. So I'd pull up into the block and my sister would be like, "I know you're at the end of the block." And I would be like, "Yo, what are you doing?" And then she has to send me screenshots of just me. Okay, so let's actually dive into the actual topic we're talking about. So is this even like should our parents be dictating this? Should they not be?
Brittany: Maybe a little. 'Cause sometimes I get scared without a phone, no one to contact or anything. But then I don't think they should be over the head like, "Oh, what are you doing at this second? Are you in school?" Yeah, but some a bit.
Syed: But more as in you're like checking what you're searching or what you doing on your social media, that stuff. What you guys saying?
Brittany: I think that's a little too private.
Syed: It is, right?
Brittany: Yeah. But then again, if someone that has social media at such a young age, and as like a 15-year-old, I think some young of us young teenagers like me, what could do anything and don't really think about it as a long term.
Syed: But honestly, I think the fact that even were able to acknowledge that, that just shows you a level of maturity. So maybe you are just mature enough to have, so I feel like it depends on how mature the child is. If they're showing you that they're responsible in responsible choices, and the rights and the wrongs and what they want to do, what they don't want to do, I feel like that's good. But if your child is constantly showing you, if we are showing them that we're not responsible enough, I feel like it is sort of justified. But I feel like after a certain age it should kind of stop, right?
Syed: For instance, your chicks as an example, right? You were basically the mom, right? You're the chick's mom. And then you want to know what the chick is doing. You want to keep an eye on the chick. So make sure it's not doing anything unsafe. But after it goes and becomes a chicken, it has its own brain.
Cindy: They don't want to be around.
Syed: Yeah. They don't want to be around anymore. So you're kind of back away. But that's when you stop liking or loving your chicken. You still want, your chicken is still with you. You're there, but you're just watching from the sidelines. And I know there's a lot of arguments, privacy, and all that, but I feel like what I'm doing should be my stuff because the phone is like mini-me.
Cindy: And so my stuff.
Syed: A tiny little me. When I open it, that's why when I get a new phone, I get anxiety. I'm like, "This is not me." And then it takes a few months for it to start feeling like, "Okay, my touch isn't there," you know?
Cindy: Transfer the information.
Syed: Yeah. You transfer it, but it still doesn't feel right. So I feel like just if this is part of us and I feel like, "We should have, it should be defined. Okay, this is your life." Because I feel like everyone is their own person, whether it's children, adults, whatever it is, everyone's their own person. At some point you're going to be alone on your own. And so what if it's just now? And I don't feel like, because... Okay, let me
tell you something. My parents put something called Kidslox on my phone.
Cindy: Yeah, I know that one. That's good time.
Syed: Oh my God. Let's just talk about Kidslox. So she put Kidslox when I was 16 and all of us got a Kidslox. And so my mom, on her free time, she'd scroll through what each person's doing. She'll see the text they're sending.
Brittany: They're all scared of that.
Syed: Yeah. And sometimes, they don't... Okay. Their generation of jokes was different, right? Their jokes were much different. Now people, like best friends are sending each other, "Hey baby girl, what are you doing?" Right?
Syed: So if I text that to one of my friends, my mom's like, "Who is baby girl?" And I'll be like, "No, mom. That said something you say like..." And sometimes me and my friend joke around like, "I totally go out with you. Let's go on date," right? And my mom's going to be like
Cindy: I believe you.
Syed:... "Who's that?" Let me tell you a fun story. So my mom is actually very like... she understands it. So my mom and my sister were joking around. So in my country we have dramas, our version of K dramas, we have our version of it. And so my mom was watching this drama and my mom said, "Oh my God, everyone in my country says he is the hottest person there." And so my sister, as a joke, sent my mom a screenshot of that actor and said, "Oh my god, mom, I want to go out and tea with him." My brother
had my mom's phone and my brother texted as if he was my mom and said, "Oh my God, he's so hot."
And my dad came home, and he saw the text and we're looking, and my dad's like, "What is this?" And then the dad talk, he's like, "Everyone come here." And so he sat down, he took off his shoes and everybody's sitting on the sofa. It's like a family meeting. And he's like, he goes, "What is this? Who are you calling on?" And then he got so pissed. See, that's why I'm saying if they're looking and dictating what we're doing, they don't have context as to why we searched up, what we searched up. And so then they're going to make judgments. And I don't think that's right. Obviously, if I have a six-year-old kid, obviously I'm going to look at what he's searching up. But obviously, if I have a kid who's like 14 in high school, I'm not going to do that because they're old enough. And it's not like anything's hidden from you. All the goods and the mads of the world, all the restricted stuff, everything. Everyone knows everything. It's just a matter of how much you're exposed to it. And I feel like in today's world, everyone's going to be exposed to everything. Little children, no curse words. I have little kid cousins who are in first grade that are cursing like crazy.
That is where the regulation should be, not at our age because our parents can't be looking at those young kids learning the wrong things and then judging us who's already been through that phase. You know what I mean?
Syed: I feel like it's a lot of the younger generation whose parents are not regulating them, looking at the older kids. And then the older kids' parents are regulating their kids, looking at the young kids, if that makes sense. It's like tangled up, you know. Yeah.
Brittany: My brother, he's in first grade, seven years old. He started cursing.
Syed: Yeah. After this. You guys continue.
Brittany: He started cursing at me real hard and I'm like, "Oh, I want to tell mom." And he'd be like, "Oh no, no, no, don't tell her. Don't tell her." But then when I cursed, he also said the same thing to me back.
Syed: Exactly. And I was going to say, honestly, I know a lot of parents try to regulate YouTube Kids, you have these resources. You have YouTube Kids, which is just for kids, you have PBS KIDS. So do you get these made for children apps, right? And so our parents should be more careful with the older kids because if they are going into adulthood and they are becoming independent people, but with that constant
regulation, they're never going to have the time to mature. And I feel like nowadays social media does mature a lot of kids much earlier. And so now the parents are having a hard time to adjust with that because the reality is it's shocking. But the newer generations, including you guys, are getting mature much faster. I don't know what it is, but I can tell. Before I know everybody wanted to stay childish. You
see that a lot in some Asian countries as well as, I'm from Asia too. They want a lot of... even as old as they get, they stay in that childish mindset because it's seen as "Innocent" or whatever. But I feel like nowadays, the younger people want to mature faster. When I was like 10, 14, I was like, "Oh, I can't wait to be 18." And now I'm 18, I'm like, "I can't wait to be 20." For some reason, our generation wants to be older faster. Once you get to the 17, "Oh my God, I reached that age of adulthood, I'm almost legal. I'm 18, I'm illegal now. I can't wait till 21. I can drink now." You're always
looking forward to something. I don't feel like we're not staying true to our age. That is what scares them about social media is 'cause they feel like social media is the one maturing the kids. But I just feel like it's just the environment, I feel like, yeah. And it would be nice to have a perspective of a parent. 'Cause we're talking from our perspective, as transparent as we can try to be. We have some sort of a bias towards it because we are the teenagers.
So I actually want to ask Jeffrey, who's a parent, and I want to ask him what his opinion on it is and what perspective he comes in with?
Jeffrey: Hi, I'm Jeff. I'm the, I guess a podcast advisor or podcast teacher and I'm happy to be here on your show today. And I'm a parent of a 10-year-old and he's pushing back really hard about me and his daddy, his other parent. We're monitoring his internet use and phone use very carefully. We see all his texts. He's begging us to be able to post publicly. And so I'm trying to figure it out. But honestly, the things that
scare me is I just graduated. I got a master's degree later on in my life, a master of fine arts. And my professor, her son, her 15-year-old son, this is a terrible story. So trigger warning, she came to find him dead at his computer in the morning because he used Snapchat to order what he thought was an oxy, which is a pain killer. It's an opiate. People are abusing a lot of them. They're not deadly. So he thought he was getting that used Snapchat to get a dealer to come to the house. And in fact, he died of a
Syed: Oh my God.
Jeffrey: So, of course, my 10-year old's not going to do that. But the kind of stuff that when you open yourself up to the world that could happen today it's so scary. And maybe it was that way when I was a kid too.
Maybe there was enough danger out there for me to get into. But I don't know what the right age is. And I'd like to bring the fellow podcast teacher. I'd like to bring Diana into the conversation because she was for a very long time, a middle school teacher. And I started talking with her about this topic earlier and I'd love to know her perspective and actually have you guys respond to it too.
Diana : Yeah. Well, I don't have my own children, so I can only speak about life as a teacher to middle school, which I did for 20 years. And the first thing I'll say is that when I started teaching there were no phones. And so I got to see the evolution of the impact, I think of social media and smartphones on children, which was really interesting to see because I could visibly see from my career between when I first
started teaching, not only the ability to focus has shifted, but also the kind of self-worth has shifted and the anxiety has shifted. So the largest thing I saw as a change in students, and I'm not attributing it all to technology and phones at all, but I did see a very, very large shift to anxiety issues, which 20 years ago when I started teaching were not really an issue. I mean there were students who had anxiety, but it wasn't 80% to 90% of my students. And the amount of anxiety, depression, just judgment of self, I saw just skyrocket. So I'm not saying that that is all attributed to social media or phones or gadgetry, but I think it has to play a part. I mean there's so many other things we can attribute like families and the attention kids are getting from parents who might also be on phones, et cetera. But I don't know. So that's something I saw. And I also saw that the students I had who were middle school, so 12 and 13 and 14, were given a tool but not given education on how to use the tool. So they were given a computer that they would just carry in their pocket with free reign. And I don't think that they're necessarily ready to have that reign.
At the same time, it's also an age where people really need privacy, and they want to kind of push parents away. And so I noticed, so there's a give and take and so I don't know what the answer is, but I know that when I was teaching, a lot of things would happen online, out of school, bullying, a lot of hateful behavior. And then the next day the kids would come in and the ramifications of that would be going on in school. But we didn't have jurisdiction over it. It was happening online at home, but then the
kids would bring in these issues with each other and stuff would happen. But it wasn't like we could actually do much about it. 'Cause it wasn't happening in school, though, it was really being carried into school. And what I noticed was that I think that parents felt a little bit helpless. They didn't know how to handle it. And we're often kind of aghast when I would say, "Well, why don't you unplug the computer at night? Or why don't you unplug this? Or why don't you take the phone?" Or that was a monumental thing I could be saying. When it's to me, it seemed kind of obvious. So I don't know, I would just saw a lot of hateful behavior. And I think that a lot of the things that people are willing to say online, they're not willing to say in person. A lot of it.
Syed: Sorry to cut you off there. I was actually going to build onto something you said is that, so I don't know if you guys know, I'm sure you guys know 13 Reasons Why, obviously. Have you guys seen 13 Reasons Why?
Syed: Okay, so in 13 Reasons Why, obviously. It's just sounds identical to the show. I've seen it four times already. I know it's not popular amongst the teenagers. Teenagers don't like it as much, but I like it a lot because I feel like it's a lot of those kids that have not gone through a lot of the issues in the show, they will find it a cliche, but a lot of kids that have gone through those things will realize how much of a reality it is. And I feel like it's just a matter of experience. But it was similar as if there's bullying going on online, outside of the school, then it's not the school's problem, technically. Because it's not happening on school rounds, it's just the student's life.
But at the same time, the parents didn't have the control over it either because their kids are teenagers and they're hiding everything. So then it's like where is that universal, I guess law or regulation on it.
And so I guess that is why parents get a little frustrated with this, is because they want to regulate it because they want to prevent that. But us as teenagers, in the early teenage years, we're kind of blind to that. We think that, oh my God, our parents are enemies, adults are enemies, they don't want us to be on our own. But I guess as I've matured, I've realized that, I guess it is a necessary part of growing up, especially nowadays because I guess it is inevitable because at some point in your life you will have social media. And being older and having social media does not put a shield around you saying you can't get cyber bullied.
All right. You have adults on social media that get bullied for being adults on social media. And so there's no age barrier. So at one point everyone's going to go through this hatred on social media. It's all about how one deals with it. And I feel like children feel like the parents are trying to dictate them, but it's just the parent's way of dealing with the kids, I guess. I don't know if that makes sense.
Diana : Yeah, it does. And I don't know if all young kids have the tools to deal with it. I think as you mature, you might get more of the tools and the skills and the self-confidence to deal with it, but middle school especially is such a fragile time in life where people just kind of... middle school is rough. How was middle school for you all?
Syed: I would use the word rough. What about you guys?
Diana : Cindy or Brittany, how was middle school for you?
Cindy: Okay. It was kind of terrifying in a way.
Brittany: So we actually went to the same middle school and then our middle school was actually elementary school through middle school. So we didn't really go through experience that other middle school through, that was more easier.
Syed: And for me, middle school was a huge change, obviously. And honestly, in movies and everywhere, high school has a really bad rep. But actually, the movie High School is a real life middle school to be honest. Because middle school is when kids are like, "Ooh, I'm becoming a teenager. I'm in the double digits now. I'm so cool and old." But in high school everyone's starting to get older and mature. So I feel like
middle school is the really tough part. Yeah.
Diana : Yeah. And it's a time where people really want to fit in. And the thing about social media is, we want to be liked, we want to ping, we want someone to like our photo, like this, like our comment, why isn't anyone liking my photo? I put this on an hour ago. Do you have that experience when you post?
Brittany: And I get scared.
Syed: Sometimes. I'm refreshing the page looking for some specific person or like it.
Diana : Yeah. We are the designers of social media. You can watch, there's some really interesting films about this have created that ping, that sound, that ping to... it does something biologically in our brains. We want that validation. And so...
Jeffrey: It floods your brain with the Serotonin.
Diana: You get feel good, you get feel good hormones when someone likes your stuff because we like to be liked and middle schoolers really want to fit in and they really don't know who they are yet. Whereas high school, you're coming into your own. So for Jeffrey, for you to give, it's tricky because your son is young and wants to be liked and wants to fit in. And then...
Jeffrey: At what age students do you think young people should have total digital privacy and autonomy?
Diana : That's a great question.
Syed: So I actually, I have different opinions than most teenagers my age. I do kind of agree with the adults a lot. It's weird. But I do agree with the adults, and I feel like 15 is a good age. For me, I think personally 15 is the perfect age because it's like you've just left the early teenager, you're basically in the middle. You're not the early teenager, but you're also not too old. So I feel like that is the perfect time to start giving full digital control because that is then they can start being a little more independent as well. And by the time they're completely 17, 18, they're like, "Okay, we know how to deal with things. We know how to deal with social media." And I feel like 15 is a good age.
Brittany: I would also agree, I would think that the age would be probably 14, 15 because that's when they're already like... I guess in a way maturing and knowing the wrong and the rights in a way, more than kids that are 10 or 12 or 13 or 9 because you guys are saying they're trying to fit in, so they will do anything possible to be liked. And now when you're 14 or 15, that's when you're already maturing to be like,
"Okay, it's fine if they don't like me." And getting the same self-confidence in yourself that you wouldn't go that far to be liked because you're already portraying yourself in a way. So my age is actually a bit lower, maybe like 13, 14, because now the kids are maturing even more fast than regular. So what our parents the age that they give us is kind of different now. You can see 10-year olds maybe on TikTok and everything. So I think that to fit in, I think unless you want kids get bullied because they don't fit in with the rest of the people. So I think maybe a lower age will be also okay. Almost teenager year.
Syed: Yeah. Totally.
Jeffrey: Would it be okay for us to ask the advisor for your podcast club?
Elizabeth: Okay, so I was listening to everything you were saying there, and I don't know, I do have experience with my own kids. I think that there is a difference between the impulsivity of a 14-year-old girl versus a 14- year-old boy. I think it's physiological. I think that there's a little more impulsivity with boys and they get
themselves into a lot of trouble. And so I think that you have to give them some freedom, but you have to hold the reins. And I think it has to be steady. There has to be a slow progression. And I would tie it into the age, this is how much freedom you will get at 10. This is how much freedom you'll get at 11. Sothey'll feel like there's a sense of a light at the end of the tunnel. And I think that's really a way to handle
the freedoms of the digital world.
But I think it's important for mature adults to definitely have control and just keep in mind that no matter how old a child becomes, they're always going to be testing you until they become real adults and then they realize. So it's just part of the dance of being a parent. They're always going to be testing, they're always going to be pushing you against the wall. They're always going to want more and it's up to you have to be firm about it, but respectful in such a way that you're giving them the respect that
you're acknowledging that they're getting older, but at a slow and steady pace.
Diana : Yeah. Jeffrey, I want to add something too. I think that often what happens, what I experience with students in middle school in that they don't know how to handle things when they come up. So if something comes up, either they feel like they're not allowed to tell an adult or they're worried because someone says, "No, don't tell anyone." And I think that if you give your child that freedom, I think what
should also come with that is saying, "Hey, if you get in trouble with this, come to me."
Have that open communication. Because I think that often things get out of control, and I don't think always kids know how to handle it and things escalate. And that I think is when dangers happen often for kids. They just
get in over their heads too. And kids in school, they don't want to narc each other out. They don't want to tell on each other. So I think that when things happen online, they don't know how to tell an adult, a teacher, a parent, a guidance counselor, or they don't know what to do. And so they just get embroiled. And I think that you need to be that parent who says, "You might get embroiled and if you do, I'm a safe adult to talk to about this and you won't be in trouble. We'll figure it out."
Elizabeth: Last thing I'm going to say, you have to have a real relationship with your kids. You have to understand, and you have to remember that you were once a teenager, a lot of parents forget their years that they pretend to forget, or they pretend to be this perfect teenager. And you want your children to live up to that perfect facade of the teenager that you once were. And that doesn't work. I think you have to have a really open dialogue. You have to be preemptive, you have to have all the conversations with them.
You have to be able to see the forest before the tree, try to prepare them as much as possible. And they cannot be afraid of you. They have to be able to come to you no matter what. No matter how big the problem is, what they perceive to be a problem or real problem, they have to be able to know that you are there for them. 100%.
Jeffrey: Such good advice, Elizabeth, Mrs. Langenbeg, and Diana. But my problem is the opposite. I know what kind of teenager I was and all the trouble I got into, I remember it as if it was yesterday. So I'm keenly aware of the risks. And I guess, that's just part of growing up, managing your own risk at a certain point.
Diana : Do you think the risks are higher now, Jeffrey, than they were when you were a teenager though? Or do you think they're similar and just parallel? I don't have an answer for that. I'm curious.
Jeffrey: I think we had to work a little harder to find risk and now it's like the whole world is right in your pocket, good and bad. Do the students have anything to add advice wise on how you would deal with this as if you're a parent or what you'd like from your parents?
Syed: I want to be a parent, honestly. So sometimes, I'm just laying in bed thinking about, okay, so if I had a child, how would I parent them? So, as I speak, I'm thinking of my younger cousins 'cause I'm really close with them. So I'm a older figure to them. So they have social media obviously, and they're exposed to a lot of things that they shouldn't be exposed to at a really young age. And honestly, I would put a lock on
my child's phone until they're at the age of being able to regulate social media on their own. You have something called Kidslox. My mom had that on my phone until I was 16.
And so she was able to look at, who I was sexting, what I was saying. She was able to look at my search history, she was able to look at where I was and everything. So I feel like that kind of regulation up to a certain point is good. It's not bad at all. And I feel like it comes and obviously, the children are not going to like it. I didn't like it when I first got it. I threw a tantrum. I was like, "No, I don't want this on my phone."
Diana : You were going to give Jeffrey one piece of advice. Why should each give Jeffrey a piece of advice of what he should do around this with his son? What should he do?
Syed: I would tell him that freedom doesn't necessarily mean you can't regulate, you can regulate and still give freedom, or you can give the illusion of freedom.
Diana : Brittany, Cindy, what would you do? What advice would you give Jeffrey?
Brittany: I would say that have their own learn, now that you can trust them in a way that they come to you easily and they know that you're going to go easy on them and understand them. That they come to you and they tell you the stuff that they're involved and stuff that can hurt them. And you just help them because they come to you already. He comes to you and knows that you're going to understand him and
help him, and it'll just be easy for him to just...
Cindy: I agree with both your guys. Maybe talk to him as a best friend instead of maybe a dad and son. Because like a best friend, you can literally tell anything to them, understand them, if there's things that you want to tell them to do, maybe agree with them and then tell them the things that they shouldn't do and just tell them the risks.
Brittany: Yeah, and I agree with that completely because like you said that you remember your teenage life and how you were... how do you say?
Brittany: Yeah. You were rebellious in a way that you can talk to him about and he would
Syed: Relate to it.
Brittany: ... relate to it and come not see you as just a parent that wants to be controlled over and just find you as a best friend that can talk to.
Jeffrey: Thank you, guys.
Syed: I just want to quickly build onto Brittany's point as well. 'Cause I feel like a lot of parents forget to share their bad stories because it's always like, "Oh yeah, I was such a hard worker. I did all my homework on time, but I'm sure mom, I'm sure dad, you did something that wasn't the best thing in the world." So I feel like parents don't share that part of themselves. And I feel like if the parents do share that part of themselves, the kids will understand that, oh, they've already been through it. My actions are nothing compared to what they did." And so they'll start trusting you because they'll feel like, "Oh, it's coming from experience," because they're like, "Oh, they've already been through that. They're not just assuming what I go through. They know what I go through.
Diana : Wow. Such a rich conversation today.
Syed: All right, so today was a really a fun conversation. I really enjoyed that because now we don't really get to have in-depth conversations of our opinions. And a lot of times it feels like if you're younger, your opinions don't matter. But I feel like everybody has a voice, everybody has the right to share opinions, and everybody has a right to privacy no matter what age. Of course, it can be limited for safety in
younger years, but I feel like everyone, no matter what age deserves privacy. And I feel like it's a misconception that privacy is only given to older people, especially among adults. But I just want to want to end this off for me by saying that everyone deserves privacy, no matter what age or gender or race or orientation or anything.
Okay, so it's Syed.
Brittany: It's Brittany.
Cindy: It's Cindy.
Syed: And goodbye everyone.