Dear Caring Parents,
Wowza, are you keeping up with all the social media that your kids have access to? It has mushroomed beyond comprehension in the past decade. It has some cool aspects to it for sure. Yet most parents I meet are shaking their heads about how to keep their children safe and grow them into solid digital citizens. I was talking to a Mom whose smart and feisty teen daughter posted some nude body parts of an x-boyfriend on snapchat. This was in retaliation for something revealing he had posted of her. His Mom started a law suit against the girl. And her Mom wondered, ‘where are my parenting skills?’
The girls’ Mom thought they’d talked about why you don’t post things like this. She’s not alone. Mostly parents believe there is open communication in their home front. Yet recent research that separately looked at parents and teens thinking about communication regarding social media revealed that 48% of teens said they don’t talk to their parents about social media events. However, 90% of parents think their children ARE talking to them. Mostly, it turns out, our teens are talking to their friends about it all. A bit like the blind leading the blind? If you want to look more at the research more closely click here.
So what to do?
Take a look at things we tend to say about social media use. Then reconsider what you say. Usually we start with ‘Before you post,’
The Mom of the young girl who wound up in court changed her conversations. It actually started to make sense to her daughter. Unfortunately for her, thousands of dollars too late.
Some other things to do:
1. Get the right filter software for yourself! Here’s a great link if you are at a loss. There’s comparative information on different safety software, comparing software based on it’s reporting and notification, activity records, filtering and blocking, installation and support and overall rating by parents.
2. Lead by example. You’ve heard it before, in other contexts – children are like a sponge absorbing HOW and WHAT you do, in this case with social media. Model what you want to see them doing. Talk about times you re-thought before you posted, felt angry and had to walk away from responding, fact checked statements, didn’t ‘confirm’ a friend because they had no info and few photos showing on their profile, unplugged….
3. Know the technology. There’s no use in running away from it. Have your kids show you what they are using. If they won’t (like if you have totally rebellious teens), ask other teens what everyone is using. Some families make getting to know a particular technology a family project. This is decidedly easier when your children are younger. In the teen years though, I always learned a lot from my daughters friends!
4. Start young. With all of these approaches to managing technology in the home, the younger you start the easier it is as time goes on. How young? This link will take you to a site that breaks down some social networking options for children by age. How young you start with the conversations depends on when you start with the technology.
5. Lay out the positives you want to see. Create a whole life picture. Stick to it. That will be easier if you do it together with your children if they are at an age for that kind of negotiation (which is once they are pretty good with words). You can keep them positive, as opposed to giving ‘you can’t’ messages, by saying things like ‘I recognize it’s important for you to connect with your friends and express yourself, your creativity, so let’s discuss how we see the use of social media. Our home takes a lot to run. You have some responsibility like ________. School is central at your age so _______ .’ And there are probably other things that are important to ‘whole life’ that you want to include. Also discuss “if what is showing up on your page is causing upset here or in school, we talk. We are installing ____software to keep you safe. That means…….’. Talk about it. Re-visit your whole life picture.
Remember, you are the first go around of parents dealing with this technology piece! Every parenting generation has had it’s risks and uncertainties. You are going to help everyone figure out how to stay on the great side of technology! You are the future parenting help!
And technology keeps developing, including some good news. There is talk now about software that alerts a person if they are posting something they could backfire on them due to inappropriate social media posts. It’s currently available in work settings and could become available for home settings. SecureMySocial is an example.
Take care now,
p.s. If you know any parents that would enjoy these posts, please forward them the signup link. Thanks!
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