Pinterest. Twitter. Facebook. Snapchat. These days it seems that as soon as you learn the ins and outs of one social media site another one gets introduced as the latest and greatest way for your teens to stay connected with their friends. As overwhelming as it seems, parents of teenagers need to be involved in social media.
Just as we stay up to speed on our kids’ grades, friends, curfews, and driving habits, our teens need our supervision online too. But to be an effective parent online, it’s important to behave in a way that won’t send your teen running off to set up a fake account that you don’t even know exists! Try these teen approved tips for staying active with your kids on social media:
- Be a stalker. Not too long ago, my teenage daughter asked her dad if he was stalking her on Instagram. Truth be told, he probably was. But in this day and age, that’s not stalking, that’s called parenting! In our house, if our kids have a social media account, then both parents are going to follow and friend them. And it’s not so we can interact with them there. We can (and should) be doing that at home. Instead, it’s to help monitor their safety and teach them proper online social skills. To avoid any misunderstandings, let them know your purpose up front.
- Don’t comment on their wall, status updates, or pictures unless they ask you to. Just because you’re their friend or follower, don’t think that you need to comment on everything (or anything) that they do! Instead, be a quiet passive observer. I’ll admit this is sounding pretty stalker-ish, but the goal is to be aware of what your kids are doing on social media sites without smothering them or drawing attention to your presence. If they ask you to be more involved, by all means go ahead. But otherwise just try to blend in with all of their other followers.
- Don’t post embarrassing pictures of them on your social media account or tag them in your pictures without their approval. Ever been tagged in a not so flattering picture on Facebook? Posed for a few re-takes to get a shot Facebook worthy? If so, then you’ll understand why your teenagers don’t want you tagging them in your pictures. Be courteous to your children and let them approve their pictures before you post them. Save those naked baby bath pictures for their actual baby book (which hopefully resides on your bookshelf, not on the World Wide Web).
- Act your age. If you’re going to be monitoring your teen’s online presence, take a good look at your own. Are you tagged in inappropriate pictures? Is your language G-rated? Does your online activity reflect your actual character? Would your online posts be suitable to show your boss, your grandmother, or your child? Take some time and review your own accounts. Delete any pictures or posts that seem questionable and think twice about what you share online in the future.
- Talk often about social media etiquette. Have frequent and open conversations with your kids about how to behave online. For example, in the real world you wouldn’t want them to use bad language or participate in bullying. The same rules apply online. Keep the conversations real, reminding them (with examples) that how they behave online can stay with them for the rest of their lives. That’s especially true as they head off to college and eventually the job market.
Dr. Polly Dunn is a mom of four, ages 9 to 19, and a licensed psychologist at the Psychological Assessment Center in Auburn. She conducts psychological evaluations for children, adolescents, college students, and adults. For more information, visit www.pacalabama.com.