4 Obvious (Yet Not-So-Obvious) Social Media Tips for Parents
This article will self-destruct in 10 seconds.
Well, not really - but ever notice how our kids can relationally "self-destruct" is less than 10 seconds based on how we handle social media with them?
On one hand, we know we're responsible for what they do online or through texting. On the other hand, we often wrestle with whether or not we're overstepping.
More than two-thirds of teens online use some form of social media or texting, mainly through a mobile device we, their parents, supplied.
This means we have the opportunity (and accountability) to be hands-on with how they live wirelessly. Just as we do our best to prepare them for life in every other area, we can parent them through social media as well.
Consider these 4 obvious (yet not-so-obvious) social media tips for parents:
#1: Know the basics, but at times let your kid be your guide
It's likely that our older kids will know more about social media than we do. Even our younger kids will have an edge we don't. Spend time understanding popular apps, but also let your kids help you learn how to use them. Ask questions that make them feel empowered and responsible, such as, "Help me understand what's appropriate or not appropriate to post publicly," and "If I post something online, is there any way someone might use it against me?"
#2. Be cool
When your kids post something controversial or questionable, don't react by chastising them online. Instead, look for a way to talk to them face to face. But be cool by not coming across as their social media stalker. Even for non-controversial stuff, try not to seem like you're monitoring their every social media move. For example, if they comment "I want my own space!" give it a few days before you say, "You know, I think you're old enough for us to look at giving you a spot on the house that's all yours." Avoid conversations that start with "So I read what you posted earlier today...."
#3. Use social media, but give kids space
Our kids are naturally afraid we'll embarrass them, so limit yourself to no more than one post a day on any social media site they also use, as well as not commenting or "liking" their posts more than once every one to two weeks.
#4. Allow for honesty, but encourage class
Help your kids think ahead about their "digital footprint" by encouraging them to post classy content, such as photos with friends at a service project versus their peers partying. Companies and colleges pay attention to this, as evidenced by one young woman who famously lost her recently-acquired job with Cisco after venting about how she desired the paycheck more than the work. Every social media post or text can likewise be a defining moment forward or backward for our kids. Talk with them about how technology is never truly private, and isn't meant for public rants.
Whether these tips are obvious things we overlook or not-so-obvious steps we can take, the end goal is that we use social media to further our parenting versus taking a hands-off approach in this area. Just as we wouldn't hand them a set of car keys without knowing how they use it, so we can look at whatever mobile device we're tossing their way as another opportunity to be fearless in loving and leading them into a fully-alive life with God.
What's your feedback on this? What are some of your tips?
I’m not in agreement with the be “cool” potion of this article. While I do believe in not going off the handle, it is important to be a parent at all times. Teens need to know that they will be held accountable and those lessons begin at home. Being a parent takes precedent over being cool.
Thanks, Jesyca. That’s fair – and maybe “cool” is the wrong word. My intent was more “keep your cool.” I agree that parents need to be “parental” even if it means not being seen as likable in that moment.
Re: the “be cool” comment… I don’t know, I actually really appreciated that piece of advice. Now, I’m not yet a mother, so I can’t say that I know what it’s like, but I do work with children and teens on a regular basis. I also remember being young and what it felt like one particular time when an adult was totally not cool in how they were “correcting” me with my social media content. It caused some serious damage to our relationship that to this day is still present, which what a shame that is. As I am now an adult, I still look back on that situation wishing that it would have been handled differently.
Now I get that of course, it really depends on the situation, and yes especially as a parent I fully believe that you need to keep your children accountable, but I’m just agreeing that there is some wisdom in not immediately attacking everything they do or say online, as Tony suggested. I particularly appreciate the example he gave, as that lends more clarity to what he was trying to communicate.
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