When did the world get so complicated?
Back in the days before cell phones and the Internet, communication choices were not so confusing. Not too long ago you could talk about a ‘friend’ and everyone understood what you meant. These days it is not unusual to inquire whether it is a ‘friend, friend,’ or a Facebook or Twitter friend.
As a parent of a tween or a teen, it can be overwhelming to try to track who it is your child is connecting with and how. From Instagram to Tumblr, Facebook to Twitter, new social networking sights seem to be cropping up daily. Trying to keep up is challenging to say the least.
You are a parent who prides herself on ‘being in the know’ when it comes to parenting. A little bit of advice and information can go a long way toward the quest to keep up with how your kids are connecting with the world at large. To this end, here are some helpful hints in order to ensure you are social networking savvy.
1. Monitoring is the key to compromise. If you are somewhat reticent about letting your kids connect, a plan which includes consistent monitoring may be the compromise you covet. Be sure to be clear about how you plan to check in on your child’s social networking activities. Collecting passwords to each of the sites she visits is not just a suggestion but, a recommendation.
2. Check out the site’s privacy policies. Different sites provide different levels of privacy. It is important to understand how a site works. Be sure to check your child’s privacy settings. If you have concerns that he is sharing with too many people, sit down and discuss it with him. Be clear about what you expect from him.
3. If you don’t understand how the site works, ask. Ask your child to show you how to negotiate a site that seems confusing. She is likely to feel empowered that you can learn from her. In addition, this education will ensure that you understand.
4. If you want to encourage honesty, avoid getting over involved with your child’s content. Avoid commenting on any news or gossip about your tween or teen’s social life. Your purpose in checking her account is to ensure safety. If she feels like you are overinvolved, you run the risk of her literally tuning you out. You don’t want to find out that she has set up another profile under a different handle to which you have no access.
5. Avoid posting or participating on your child’s page. Your role is to parent not to ‘friend.’ Unless your child tells you he wants you to participate, this is a big ‘no, no.’
6. If you see something, say something. If you are concerned about something your child has posted, or perhaps a post of his friend, talk to him. If you have access to his passwords avoid simply taking down what you don’t like. If the post is very concerning and you feel you must manage the situation in the moment, have him take it down. When you do it for him you encourage distrust and dissention. Have a discussion with him about what and why you have concerns.
7. If his friends consistently offend, be sure to insist he block. Sometimes it is his friends who put up inappropriate content on your son’s site. Give him a warning before insisting on action. If the behavior persists however, be sure to follow through. With rumors that colleges and potential employers check social networking pages, you do not want your tween or teen to be penalized for the bad behavior of his friends.
8. If you ‘friend’ your tween or teen she has access to your profile. Unless you consistently monitor your own social networking pages, are you really sure the content on your page is rated ‘E’ for everyone including your kids? Now maybe you are quite conscious of what you post yourself, but are you confident that all of your ‘friends’ are as mindful as you are? If not, think again.
9. Discuss the rules before you allow him access. The time to talk about what you expect regarding his social networking activities is before, not after he gets started. Clearly define what you mean by inappropriate posts. Remember, he cannot comply if he does not understand. If warranted, discuss the parameters of his social networking activities. Can he check into his sites when he gets home from school, or is he expected to finish his homework first? Do you expect him to have time limits on his social networking activities; if so clearly spell this out. Your failure to do so could result in a tween or teen who is up all hours of the night interacting with his internet ‘friends,’ remembering some of his virtual friends may live in different time zones.
10. Set up a social networking support system with other parents. Use social networking to your advantage. Keep in touch with other parents about your tween or teen’s online behavior. Make a pact amongst each other that you will police each other’s kids. This ensures that you are not in this alone. Let your tween or teen know that other parents will be watching. This back up system helps ensure that your child and his friends are safely social networking.
It is a much different world out there than it was when you were a kid. Although it may feel as if parenting has become a much more complicated task, a little social networking savvy, can go a long way.
What are your family rules for social networking?
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