I happen to know quite a bit about social media. I am a social media consultant and trainer. I am also the mom to three teenagers (and a ‘Shorty’ who’s only 8) but I’ve never proclaimed to be especially tech savvy or extraordinary gifted with hardware and software knowledge. I don’t need to. I am lucky. I have a live-in IT guy. My kids call him ‘Dad’.
My wonderful girlfriends, moms to both teenagers and younger kids, are clueless as to what their kids are doing on social media and where they roam. On more than one occasion, after being asked mind you, have I pointed out new platforms and networks for them to check out, to see if their kids are on those sites. I’ve explained Instagram about 10 times “Yes, it’s more than pictures. Yes, kids ‘talk’ with hashtags. Oh darn, now I have to explain those…”
Let me state this clearly:
- If your (pre)teen has a smart phone, they are social online.
- If your (pre)teen has no smart phone, but you allow them use of an iPad or tablet, they are social online.
- If your (pre)teen has access to your home computer, they are social online.
- If your (pre)teen has a gaming console (Xbox, Wii, PlayStation), they are social online.
They WILL find a way to communicate with their friends without you knowing, especially if you forbid them to.
Did you know anyone can download free apps (just like they download free games) to do anything from texting, video calling, sharing of images and more? They will figure it out, trust me, they will. This generation of tech savvy kids has grown up with computers in their hand since they were toddlers. How many moms have you seen in the store, shopping, while their kids watch videos on their iPhones? They start young.
I know a mom with a 10 year old who let her kid and his friend play iPad games in the back seat of her car during a recent road trip. Little did she know that in order for them to play (each on their own) iPads together, they needed to be on WiFi. Her 10 year old figured out how to access her phone’s HotSpot (WiFi on demand) and use a massive amount of data (and ran up a huge bill) during their road trip. Now HotSpot is a dirty word in her household.
So what do you do? Do not ignore it or forbid it. Instead, do this:
Talk to your kids daily. Ask them what they are doing, whom they are hanging out with and what their plans are. Ask for friends’ parents names, kids phone numbers (yes, I have some of my kids’ friends numbers) and make sure you know what’s going on in their lives.
- Set Rules
Tell them what you expect them to say/share and not say/share on social media sites. Set up boundaries with regards to time spend on social sites, who they ‘friend’, what personal information they share and in what room of the house they can access the internet. Give examples of questionable posts and what NOT to do! And then set consequences…because the rules will get broken.
Go to the platforms you know they are on and monitor some of the conversations. Make sure the images shared are OK and the words spoken do not hurt anyone’s feelings and are appropriate. ‘Google’ their full name periodically to find out if they’ve created additional profiles you do not know about. I know a teenager who was banned from Facebook by her mom, but promptly made a Twitter account. Mom didn’t know anything about Twitter until I found some questionable tweets and alerted her and had to guide her through Twitter.
Ask around and do some online research. Find out where and what teens are doing online. It’s really NOT that hard to find the information. Type ‘Teen’ and ‘social media platform’ into Google and you’ll have a great start!
Share your knowledge with other parents and ask them to help keep an eye out for ‘red flags’ on the social media sites they frequent, too. It takes a village to raise a child.
Never think that your teen will not do something stupid. My own son has been reprimanded (several times) for posting questionable stuff on Twitter. He has blocked me from ‘following him’ but of course his tweets are public and I can read them.
Stay vigilant and teach them well. It’s only their reputation you are protecting.
About Dorien Morin-van Dam:
I am the face behind the orange glasses! Proud to be Dutch, I wear orange glasses in real life, too! As manager of 5 kids, 2 dogs, 1 business and 1 husband, multi-tasking is my middle name. When I am not engaged online, I love to engage with my kids and their friends. I am a marathon runner, avid reader, blogger, baker and world traveler.