Social media will never be less complex, or a smaller part of daily life than it is today.
While I grew up with computers and joined the internet over 20 years ago, I still struggle to keep up with the social media my students are using. They have grown up in an era where some of them have never heard a dial tone. Every single teenager alive today was born after the internet started to go mainstream. Even the oldest teenagers today, with the best memories, can hardly remember dial up internet. They are true digital natives.
New technology and programs are invented daily, and you never know what will become the next iPhone and Facebook. It can be extremely intimidating for most parents to try and know what to do. You don’t want to totally ban your children from technology and the internet, but you also don’t want them exposed to the dangerous sides of the internet.
The reality is that you can’t keep up with technology, but you can keep with your child.
You don’t have to be an expert. You do need to be curious.
– Jon Acuff
[The following post is heavily inspired by Jon Acuff’s breakout talk at the Orange Tour’s stop in Austin, TX. The talk was on social media and parenting. At the bottom of the post, I link to a number of his resources; I would encourage you to check them out. He has two blogs ACUFF.ME and Stuff Christians Like]
One of the reasons it’s so hard for most of us to talk to our kids about social media is that no one ever had a social media conversation with us. By the time social media conquered the world, we were already savvy enough about life that we didn’t make any enormous mistakes (though we all know someone WAY too old to be posting what they’re posting). We don’t necessarily understand how all the technology works, but we know a bit about how the world works. Our children have the opposite problem.
Just because your kid is tech savvy doesn’t mean they’re life savvy.
Therefore, it’s vital as a parent to parent your children when it comes to social media. You need to define what your family values, and then you need to train your children in what that looks like on social media.
You must engage with your children about social media!
We are the first generation in human history that needs to have the digital footprint talk with our kids – Jon Acuff
FIVE PRINCIPLES FOR THESE CONVERSATIONS
- You are their parents and you have a responsibility to get involved.
- There is no promise of privacy with your children. Most people have restrictions on their privacy as an adult. Why would you give your child more freedom than your employer gives you?
- Talk about it before they use it. Before they get a new piece of technology…before they get on a new social media site…you need to have the conversation. You want to get involved proactively before they get themselves into trouble.
- Social media is an on-going conversation that starts before they’re on social media and ends when they launch into adulthood.
- Texting is a form of social media and you need to be paying attention.
I would highly recommend that you drive the conversation, and not culture or their friends at school.
What are the five conversations?
CONVERSATION #1 | Social Media Boundaries
Each of us need need boundaries in our lives. We never outgrow the need for boundaries. Training your children on setting boundaries in all areas of their life isn’t only wise, it’s a necessity.
Social media is no different.
Social media exploded so fast over the last 10 years that it gained mass popularity before proper etiquette was discovered.
As we go along, we are the generation of parents who are giving the first instruction on social media etiquette and boundaries. That’s a great responsibility, and a great opportunity. What we either pro-actively teach or passively allow will shape the behavior of future generations when it comes to social media.
What are some obvious boundaries and areas of etiquette:
- Don’t text or use social media while driving. | This seems so obvious, but it’s an enormous issue.
- Don’t text while talking to someone. | It’s almost comical how rude our behavior is when it comes to using our phones while talking to someone IN PERSON.
- Define your dark zones. | You have to have times when all technology is off limits. Take up phones at dinner. I would highly discourage you from letting your child take their phone with internet access to bed. At best, they’ll stay up late texting friends. At a moderate level, they’ll stay up late binge watching NetFlix (which they all do). At worst, you’re enabling them to spend hours every night with their personal porn device.
SOME GOOD QUESTIONS TO TEACH THEM TO ASK
- Would I do this in real life?
- If not, then why do it online?
CONVERSATION #2 | Where Do You Go Online?
Social media is the new hangout spot.
In the same way you wouldn’t drop your kids off at a strange building or a stranger’s house, you shouldn’t drop your kids off online somewhere you haven’t inspected first.
- Who are you texting?
- What social networks are you on?
- Why do you want to be on that particular site?
- What does your profile allow? (You may not allow your child to have email, but a website might give them an email address which you weren’t aware of)
CONVERSATION #3 | What Can Your Technology Do?
If you have set restrictions on any of those areas, but hand them an iPhone with internet access and no restrictions, they can just ignore all of those other restrictions.
Smart phones and iPods replace every piece of technology we had as a child.
Just go down the list of things from our childhood it can replace:
- I wanted a Game Boy …CHECK!
- I wanted a Walkman/DiscMan …CHECK!
- I wanted a TV in my room …CHECK!
- I wanted internet access ….CHECK! (except their phone is EXPONENTIALLY faster than dial up)
- I wanted a camera …CHECK!
- I wanted a video camera …CHECK!
- I wanted to be able to talk to my friends …CHECK!
- I needed a graphing calculator …CHECK!
- I needed (eventually) GPS …CHECK!
CONVERSTATION #4 | What’s On the Internet Is Public to Everyone and It Doesn’t Go Away
Children and teenagers don’t inherently understand the nature of the internet.
- Everything you post on the internet is permanent
- Everything you post on the internet can become public
- Everything you post on the internet you’re giving to someone you don’t know (it’s on their servers)
- 25% of college admissions offices look at online profile
- The majority of large corporations openly state they check your online presence.
It doesn’t go away!
It becomes public!
It is owned by someone else!
Teach them to post wisely!
For someone in grade school, posting on the internet is like getting an assembly together at school which is recorded and broadcast on the local news. Everyone at your school will probably see it. It’s public. Someone else has control of what happens to it.
If you wouldn’t share something in an assembly at school, don’t post it on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram.
Or think of it this way…
We all get into disagreements (maybe a better word is FIGHTS) with other people. Now, imagine that you get into a highly heated debate with a friend or someone from school, and they pull out a video camera to record the conversation. Would that change what you say and do?
Fighting with someone online is like having a live debate with someone where they video tape the entire interaction!
BIG IDEAThe larger the audience, the less you should be willing to share.
I run multiple blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, and websites. I’m extremely intentional about what I do and do not share in specific contexts. It’s not that they can’t share. It’s that they need to be EXTREMELY intentional about what they share.
CONVERSATION #5 | Social Media & Friends
As someone in their 30s I’m pretty sure playing Mortal Kombat didn’t mess me up too much. Unfortunately, you can’t say the same thing about social media mistakes. You may not allow your child on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter, but that doesn’t mean their friend isn’t on there. They can share pictures of your child doing all kinds of things you would never allow your child to share.
I have so many stories of students having pictures shared of them wearing something inappropriate or clearly hammered drunk. They would never share the picture, but their friend did…and tagged them.
Social media allows your kids’ dumbest mistake to be recorded and shared with the public, and it never goes away (drill this idea into your kids’ brains)
You need to know which of their friends are online and allowed to post pictures.
GREAT QUESTION TO ASK
- Which of your friends are allowed to post pictures online?
This article was inspired by a talk I heard from Jon Acuff. Below are a few of Jon Acuff’s books. Stuff Christian’s Like is funny. I have not read Quitter, and I actually wrote a review of Start.