Monday, July 25, 2016

Social Media and Your Kids - Tips to Help YOU

As a parent of a tween/teen you will get mixed feedback on social media and your kids! None of it really makes sense, but you are expected to be an expert.  

The first time I realized my child's social media was out of my control was when her school set her
up with a Google account "for school purposes only" but being a veteran social media user - I knew that was just the beginning of her online thumbprint.

Social media is scary - I know - when I was 16 the biggest thing we had going was email - now I am trying to raise children in a society that speaks 140 characters or less, followed by #coding aka #hashtags that increases our presence.  

I sat down this weekend and listened to another teen/tween's mom pour her soul out to me about her fears of social media - and no worries Momma, I have those same fears.  

It is no lie social media is dangerous, but it can also be productive - so while it seems like the devil working (and it can be) there are ways to help prevent the hellstorm (yes I spelled that I wanted it) before it happens. 

What YOU can do as a parent:

Know the law, we do not have to go to law school to know we are responsible for what our child does online, in text, over the phone, and in person.  We as parents sign an invisible contact that we will and are responsible for our children - that includes their online presence.  

Know what accounts your kids have - now here is the trick since you are "legally" responsible for them (even if you only have joint custody) you have the right and really the OBLIGATION to know what they are doing online.  They cannot tell you that it is none of your business - unless of course they plan to get a job, pay rent, buy food, pay for that electronic device, an attorney to help them become legally emancipated.  Don't worry they won't and any sane judge won't grant it.  

Make them give you all passwords, see in my house I am the password dictator - if I don't know your password, pin code, ...yada yada yada - I will pull the plug, all the way down to the charger cord. You will follow my rules or you will not enjoy the simple pleasures. 

Know your kids can lie online , kids can lie to you even on social media - if you click over to Becky Davenport on Facebook you will see I lie to people daily, it shows I have 0 friends.  I am an adult and I believe the people that follow me deserve privacy so I hide my friends - so if I can lie, so can your kids can too!  

Know the privacy settings on your kid's page, realize some may have them full public (not good) and some may have them private, but block you from seeing individual post.  Yes you should stress about this!  If you can't see everything they are posting - then they should not be posting.  

Learn a little online slang, I get tickled at my father-in-law who has no clue what a #TomSelfie is - that is because he does not know what a hashtag is and really has no need to as he is 80 and just fabulous! However, as a parent you should know what hashtags are and understand their meanings.  I once saw a bright young girl post the tag #420allthetime - she had no clue that meant she was thought smoking pot all day was cool - nor did her parents.  This could lead to job loss, career failures, and loss of friends all because of lack of social media education. 

Know how to DELETE and where to delete, there are times you just need to wipe clean and say my bad or their bad!  DELETE is okay. 

Know what apps have visual memory and what apps have virtual memory; oh the love of Snapchat - until some man realized that naked selfie he just sent is saved on some virtual server - and if his wife is smart enough she can recover it - remember nothing is truly secret.

Know their locations settings, do not and I repeat again DO NOT let your kids "check in" places - until they have left.   As a blogger I get paid to say I am at places, but my safety is sooooo much more important than the someone making money.  It is okay to say you were at a place, but wait until you are gone before doing it.  Also know that once you write a review of place or check-in at that location people can read your comment and see your profile - so this could lead to strangers seeing your information/page.

Know their friends, I have this shameful embarrassing story that happened to me (a social media expert) several years ago.  I was popular online, I then lived in a semi-small community, and lots of people knew who I was.  This young man with no profile picture began messaging me and liking my photos - I was in the middle of going through a divorce so the kind words were refreshing.  This young man who I had no clue what he looked like said to me "I saw you tonight - you had your hands full at homecomers" ....I was a bit creeped out and kind of snapped on the young man.  A few minutes later the young man came back and asked me to let him explain.  I gave him a few minutes of my time - only to find out I did know the young man - except he was not a young man he was an older married man in my then community that did a lot of volunteer work - he knew me from the gym, but was too scared to come up in person and talk to me, so had created a fake online profile to talk to me.- needless to say he should have been scared considering he was married.
However, if this could happen to me as an adult, imagine what could happen your child.

Know how to track your child's social media behavior.  When I said there is an app designed to see everything your child does online - other parent's jaw hit the floor.  Well pick it up, because there is lots of apps that help track their online thumbprint.  You can google social media tracking for parent's and come up with a list of good ones - the best I have seen in use is Socially Active  - it gives a pretty good run down of their virtual presence.

Do I think as a parent you should delete all their accounts, yell and scream at them for the social media mess ups?  NO - I think we have to remember they are kid's their brains are not fully developed and we are parents that know nothing - I know I already here those words.  As a parent what you can do is educate yourself, download the apps, find out what kids are doing, and get up in your kid's business! 

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