For years I’ve listened to arguments that parents should police their kids’ social media. Basically, set limits to hopefully reduce exposure to the inherent risks. And, for years I jumped right on board! But let’s face it, this may have worked when only Facebook and MySpace were around, and when the family desktop was in the office. Social Media has evolved into something much more, and it’s time for us to adjust too.
For today’s kids, it is how they socialize:
Flirting begins with a single text, or tweet, or Instagram picture – leaving notes in a locker is so passé that when I mentioned it to my son he promptly laughed and asked if I knew what year, or rather what century it was!
Much of the dating process happens via cell phone apps. Unfortunately, this can make breakups very abrupt and painful. Typed words do not have emotion and make it hard to react appropriately – impossible to make a dramatic exit or slam a phone down in anger!!
Bullying is easy and creative. We all know kids can be mean. Social Media has become an anonymous shield for bullies to feel protected from any repercussions of what they say or do. The “bullied” are not so lucky. Their torture is public, permanent, and can reach them at all hours even in the safety of their own home.
Making friends happens through introductions on Facebook, Twitter, and others. And getting to know each other continues through posts, pictures, and quotes by kids and their friends. Group chats make it possible for kids to be in constant touch – affecting sleep, studying, and the precious downtime our overscheduled kids need!
Stop saying “tsk” “tsk” under your breath, and shaking your head with the same judgmental nod our own parents gave us! I know it’s different than what we knew. No more long, drawn out phone calls, or a pocketful of notes from a secret admirer. We don’t even get to hear who is polite – “Hello Mrs. Kroll, May I please speak to….” We feel shut out. But how different is it than the generation gaps of the past? It’s simply the one we have to cross.
Maybe it was naive to think we should watch every move they make online – or maybe it was just that we didn’t understand how big this was going to get. Most of us had secrets from our parents – it’s a normal part of growing up. So, isn’t it silly to think our kids are going to show us every text, tweet and post? Frankly, I’m not interested. What is more helpful now, is for us to show them how to function successfully in this Social Media world they are growing up in.
So how do we help?
We step into their world instead of judging from ours.
Don’t roll your eyes when your pre-teen says they have a boyfriend/girlfriend and your realize this means an increased texting relationship!
Do read these texts and help them through the challenges they face.
Don’t just police their phone usage.
Do understand the apps they are using and become involved in their posts, usage, and interactions. Teach them the risks of posting personal information and photos, and be sure they understand that the Internet is forever!
Do make an extra effort to get to know the “friends” they meet on line. Keep a watchful eye for “friends” that just don’t sound right. Predators come in all shapes and sizes!
Don’t Be Passive.
Do keep learning. Their world is evolving around them, and we need to grow up too.
And above all remember….
Be a parent. They need us!