I remember a couple of years ago Saturday Night Live did this very funny skit on the “Mom Filter for Facebook.” It was a pretend infomercial for an imaginary product that helped block parents from making embarrassing comments on your social media updates while filtering which posts they could even see.
We’ve all had it happen to us. Well meaning family members say something in “public” that makes us want to dig a hole and hide. As youth workers we want to troll our students on Instagram and say, “Seriously, one more selfie? Can you take pictures of anything else other than the many expressions of you?” So a friend suggested I post some helpful guidelines for us to pass onto the parents (and grandparents) of our students. (Maybe we need to keep an eye out as well.)
Know Where They Are And Follow From Afar:
Teens are leaving Facebook for Instagram. I actually read an article recently that the most widely used social media site used by the 12-18 set is Tumbler. Find out what’s popular, what they want to use and what they are doing on those sites. What is the safety of these sites? (Snapchat is evil and anyone anywhere can find you on KiK.) Can people they don’t know find and contact them without knowing? Don’t be afraid to follow them and see what they are putting out there for the world to see. Enlist family members to follow them as well. Warch the comments on their posts. This is the place cyber-bullying often begins. It’s our responsibility as parents to nip this in the bud.
When my children started thinking about the use of more social media my husband and I set up some guidelines. We put together a covenant they all had to sign as to viewing this as a privilege not a right, and being responsible and what that means. There is a limit to the amount of time they are allowed on devices for the purpose of “connecting.” (AKA: Documenting themselves through every moment of the day, doing mundane things like drinking cocoa does not need to be posted at midnight.) At first they balked with, “Don’t you trust me?” This is not an issue of trust. It’s an issue of accountability. At any point ANY of us are on the cusp of making a poor decision. Even as adults we need people to help us stay on track with Godly choices. We tell our children often, “Right now it’s our job as parents to help hold you accountable.” Don’t be afraid to set up safety measures on their phones, track them or even check their accounts. A high percentage of students genuinely believe they can hide their online activity from their parents. Having the “eyes” of others (family members and friends) on them as well helps them know what they do to “hide” will always come out in the open, eventually. (This is a life lesson btw.)
Think Before You Comment:
Social media is a part of identity formation for teens. It’s also a way of them connecting to friends or being silly or exploring who they are and what they like. If you are concerned about something they have posted, take them aside, sit them down and ask them about it. A public forum is not the place to “remember when,” about yourself or their past. Chances are you will embarrass them if you say much at all. You aren’t their friend, so don’t act like a peer. Be their parent, even on social media. If they post a picture of an award received give a shout out as to your love and support of them. Think of the power of the “Direct” message, or better yet a face to face sit down. As yourself, “Would I cringe if someone said this to me?”
Following Their Friends Is Creepy:
Unless your child (or grandchild or family member) is in a picture or comment it’s a little strange to just make random statements out on social media to people they know that you don’t. Your kids friends may want to “befriend” you. Be aware, especially if you don’t know their parent. You have become the online version of “stranger danger,” even if you don’t realize it. If you don’t know the child and parent live and in person, don’t follow them and don’t comment. It weirds everyone out.
As the parent of three in MS I thought I was pretty up on these things. That is until I found this 2014 Social Media Guide. It is HANDS DOWN the best thing out there for parents I have ever found (and it’s free.) It lists all the social media sites that are out there and their purpose. It gives basic and in depth ways to help keep your kids safe and follow them on everything. It isn’t jus the parents of the “bad kids” that seem to just let their kids do whatever. Some of the best parents I know simply aren’t aware their kids are sending photos to their friends at one in the morning.
The bottom line is that we need to keep up on this ever changing world that is now called “connection.” It used to be that we could just track our kids online, now with their phones in play they can be sending and receiving information all of the world at anytime of day. Educate your parents, educate yourself.
What other tips are you passing onto parents and grandparents?