Dealing with Social Media As Parents
Back In the Day
Let's face it, social media is here to stay, but remember the days without it? I know, me either.
Back in my day we wore leg warmers, played records, listened to a walkman, mailed a letter at the post office and used a pay phone. Today, we myspace, link in, tweet, text, skype, email and of course facebook, all in one swipe of a touch screen smart phone over wi-fi, 3G, or 4G!
Life was so simple, back then, right?
Parents worried, but not as much as today, right?
Then came along social media.
What is social media and why do we, as parents, care? Because it has become a way of life. A way of communicating constantly---instantly, incessantly, even addictively; and our kids are heavily exposed to it. And with that kind of exposure, both positive and negative, at times, the negative outweighs the positive.
What can we do?
Parents MUST remain vigilant at all times. Why? Not only do we pay the bill, but we also have a major responsibility to control this wonderfully fun, exciting, yet, potentially dangerous platform of communication and information sharing for our children's sake.
Parental Workshop: Eye Opener
A few months ago, my son's school decided it was time to openly discuss Facebook in all our lives; especially in our children's lives.
At the workshop, most of the information was provided by the school's counselors, the principal, parents and the student's themselves. A lot of the data was provided by Common Sense Media, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to providing families with information to manage in an advanced age of technology.
I sat there attentively listening to how Facebook is this massive social networking site with which is not supposed to be used by people under 13, but that in reality it's not that hard to still create a profile even if you are 13 and under. But, whose responsibility is that? Facebook? Well, if they discover any 13 and under users they will delete the profile--and they should.
Facebook is here to stay.
Let's discuss why it matters that we (parents) and our kids should both be socially responsible for such a powerful, wonderful, exciting, fun yet potentially dangerous communication social networking site instantly connecting everyone all over the world-good and bad.
Our Kids Matter!
Why Care As Parents?
Parents and kids have both positive and negative things to think about when using Facebook:
The Positive: Judge for yourself
- Great way for kids to stay in touch.
- Showcases their interests and have fun.
- Way to advocate for a cause kids believe in.
The Negative: Judge for yourself again!
- Sharing of inappropriate photos: sexy pictures, kids drinking, picture tagging.
- Cyberbullying: Scary!
- Facebook feuds that often lead to real issues at school or at home.
- Misuse of it causing "facebook drama."
- Safety issue: Privacy, posting of physical locations, inviting people to join them.
- Unwanted comments about friends.
- Once posted, it's done and out of your child's control.
However, the key to all this, in my opinion, is not that Facebook is the issue, but the actual way it's being used that is being addressed here.
Digital Footprint: Post Now, Pay later!
As the issues arose during the workshop, a new term was revealed--digital footprint. This was intriguing and frightening as a parent to hear.
Digital footprints is basically a trail left by the constant interactions in a digital arena. This even includes the use of t.v, cell phones, the web and other devices. In other words, it stays for life or is very difficult to erase once it's out there in cyber space where 500 million or more people have access to it. This may lead to personal and professional trouble in the future. Yikes!
The best example they gave at the work shop was about a 12th grader with a 4.0 GPA and great credentials going for an interview at a top Ivy league school and during the interview being asked if he or she had a Facebook page. The school checked the teen's page and discovered that the image of him or herself on facebook with the pictures, posts and other digital trails he or she used, was not what the school's reputation wanted to be affiliated with. That student was not accepted to that school. Lesson learned the hard way, huh?
Prevention is key!
So, as socially responsible parents what role do we play in all this?
Parental Intervention: Be In The Know!
Let's be honest here, Facebook is fun, fast, free, exciting and a great tool, but with greatness comes responsibility:
1. Speak to your child about being selective with the information they post--pictures included!
2. Make privacy settings mandatory for their profile.
3. Make location services not an option for child. Disable it!
4. SET RULES ON WHAT THEY CAN OR CAN NOT POST!
5. Make sure their posts are not impulsive, insensitive and demeaning. Have them think before they post!
6. Beware of ads.
7. Have them help you create your own page. Be in the know, parents! The more you know, the better you will know what they are up to.
8. "Friend" younger teens and talk to high school aged teens about friending them.
9. Keep your inquiries about posts general so that they don't unfriend you!
10. And last, but certaintly, not least---BE A GOOD ROLE MODEL! KEEP YOUR OWN DIGITAL FOOTPRINT CLEAR.
Use Facebook Wisely
In this day and age of constant information, we, as parents, guardians and responsible adults must be the ones to set the example.
Facebook is a great thing. It allows us to reach the world in ways we would never have thought, but our children are vulnerable and we must always remember that we are responsible for them. In addition, showing them responsibility teaches them responsibility.
Applying these rules to your child's social media not only allows a safer digital environment for them and all of us, but also helps you and your child bond in a special way while keeping the communication lines open.
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