“My mom is Facebook challenged.” This was a comment made to me recently by a tween girl referring to her mother’s lack of understanding or even participation when it comes to social media. As a parent it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the power of social media; an ever more powerful part of our lives.
We constantly hear of tweets and posts and the latest blog and photos on Facebook. “What’s trending” is now a part of most daily news reports. Virtually everyone has a smart phone. Almost a billion people share and communicate on Facebook. But how is all of this affecting our kids? How can we be sure they are safe? We can’t just put the computer in the living room and ignore the power of social media anymore when it comes to our tweens time online.
It is easy to see why busy parents feel overwhelmed, but there are ways to help your tween handle social media responsibly. The keys are education and communication. Communicating specific examples of behavior that is appropriate on Facebook and what is not should be part of the conversation.
- Suggest a specific number of friends your tween is permitted to have on Facebook. Require that they do not go over this number as it can emphasize the importance of quality connections, not quantity. Similar to a well-monitored science project, this number can also give you a constant to gauge their Facebook use by.
- Make sure your tween only accepts friend requests from people they actually know in real life. This requires oversight from mom and dad but is a good rule of thumb to avoid connecting with “spam accounts.” Some profiles today have misleading profile photos that could cause your tween to think “this person is like me” (aka harmless), but it might not be an actual person at all. If your tween isn’t allowed to connect with those he or she doesn’t know in real life, he/she is less likely to consider accepting the friend request.
- Never post anything you wouldn’t be willing to have your grandma or grandpa see. We adults might insert “your boss” instead of grandparent, but you get the idea. Make sure they know their activity must be appropriate for all eyes that are watching.
If you are a “Facebook challenged” parent, it will be harder to arm your tweens with the knowledge they need to use social media safely and with their long-term reputations in mind. Proactive parenting starts with equipping yourself with the right information.
It also means understanding which social networks are right for your individual tween. Some of them are more kid friendly than others so it is important to do your research before allowing your tween to open an account on any social network.
Finding the answers to overcoming the challenges parents and tweens face when it comes to social media is now easier than ever with our revolutionary program Saving Face™, providing solutions to parents concerns about social media safety.
This blog contributed to by Hay There Social Media team member Sheri Watkins.