By Susan Kurlander, M.Ed.
As the parent of adult children, I look back to their growing up years and realize how different my concerns were about my children’s exposure to media as compared with parents’ concerns today. Back then, “social media” wasn’t even on my radar screen. I worried that cartoons on tv were too violent, that my children might watch an “R” rated movie at a friend’s house, that they might hear profanity on an “adult television show, or that that they might abuse phone privileges if they had a phone in their room. It never entered my mind that they might take a picture of themselves in less than appropriate clothing and send that picture to a “friend.” I don’t remember if they even had their own camera. I always made sure they had quarters in case they needed to call us as cell phones weren’t in the picture. They couldn’t buy anything without my knowing about it as nothing could be ordered without my credit card.
I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, social media is incredibly different today. Our children have access to a myriad of opportunities to converse with people they don’t know, to engage in risky behaviors such as sexting, to purchase items not approved by their parents, and to remain anonymous while being hurtful or critical of others. Children today are far more likely to use social media as a way to take control of their own lives sometimes for the good, but sometimes not.
For parents who want their kids to have nothing to do with it, the reality is that social media is not going away. If anything, social media opportunities will continue to grow at an exponential rate. How do we, as responsible parents, monitor our children’s use of social media while empowering them to use these technological advances in constructive ways?
One way is to talk to them about the difference between “intent” and “impact.” What we may regard as a benign comment, when put on social media and instantaneously sent to hundreds of people, may wind up having a totally different impact than intended.
Along with a discussion about intent and impact, parents need to make sure their children understand both the positive and negative consequences of their actions. Their request for specific information from a friend about a homework assignment may be helpful, but making fun of a disliked teacher or a peer may cause ongoing ramifications.
Some additional monitoring tips courtesy of 13 Tips for Mentoring Kids’ Social Media Parenting Magazine include:
- Keep the computer in a central location.
- Create ground rules perhaps through a contract that could be set up as a family.
- Check that privacy settings for the Internet and Facebook are set to the strictest levels.
- Make sure your kids know to avoid questionnaires, free giveaways and contests.
- Limit cell phone use.
- Be informed about new apps, etc.
- Be a good role model of how to use social media. You don’t want your children to follow in your footsteps if you’re checking messages while stopping at a red light.
We, as parents, need to embrace the advent of social media so that our children don’t feel isolated from their world including family, friends, school and their future. Empowering them to use social media responsibly and to its best advantage is necessary for their growth and development as young people in today’s technology oriented world.
Social media is here to stay. We need to work together to promote its benefits and minimize its liabilities. JCS will be providing a breakout session on Social Media at the Community Parent Symposium at Krieger Schechter Day School, on Monday, March 9th at 6 pm. For more information, click here or visit www.jcsbaltimore.org/parenting-series.
By Susan Kurlander, M. Ed., Health Educator, JCS Prevention Education
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