Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Parents Should Look at Social Media as a BIG, HUGE CITY

You wouldn't send your kids into an unknown, foreign city without a street map, would you?  More than likely, you would want to go WITH them to the city the first few times to show them how to get around, how to navigate themselves and avoid dangerous situations.

I know we don't want to think of the world as a dangerous place and if we are careful, it doesn't have to be.  But we also need to be realistic, when your social media account is public...ANYONE can see it.

Social media and the internet are like a city with trendy, fun neighborhoods filled with inspiration and cute photos and then wander off that track and you will find dark, seedy neighborhoods that you only happen upon by mistake when a search goes wrong.  Maybe right up front where you are standing is nice and bright and you can see your way around...maybe all your friends are there commenting on your stuff and being nice...but back there in the distance it's dark and we don't know what lurks we need to teach our kids to be cautious.  We need to help our kids understand proper internet and social media navigation technique and etiquette and how to present themselves and who to talk to and who to avoid and why.  Actually, there is A LOT we need to teach them and since a lot of this is unchartered territory, it changes often and we, the parents, need to be prepared to roll with it and improvise and make things up on the spur of the moment because it's all so new hardly anyone knows what can happen.

Many, many years ago, when my girls were really little, my sister-in-law in California, who had teenagers, gave me great advice: If your kids are on social media, you should be, too!  Back then it was MySpace and my sister-in-law had her own account and her kids' passwords and she monitored what people said to them and her kids' didn't DARE post anything inappropriate because they knew their mother would see.

Social media is not a playground for kids. 

 If your kids don't understand social media they shouldn't be on it.  Likewise, if YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND social media, YOUR KIDS should not be on it.  If you don't like social media and you don't want to be on it, that's fine...but don't let your kids have complete freedom with's a recipe for disaster!   You don't know who is following your kids, you don't know how their feelings can get hurt, you don't know what they are posting.  Social media is not a place for kids to play around at being older or play around. period.  Social media is no joke.  If your account is public there are people all over the world that can see your photos and some of those people may not have good intentions or some of those people may say hurtful things to your kids or some of those people may use your kids pictures in inappropriate ways.  Not to mention all of the stuff posted on social media may one day come back to haunt you...when you try to get a job or run for office or who knows what.


Jason and I have made conscious, intentional decisions with regards to technology: we want our girls exposed to it and to understand it and how it works and how to use it and how to behave on it.  It's constantly evolving and we don't want our kids left in the dust.  Many of the jobs our kids will hold are not even created yet, and while social media as we know it may not exist in ten years, something else will take its place and we want our kids to be part of every nuance and to understand it all because that is how innovation works.  You need to be part of the world and what is going on to understand the needs and how it works and to create new and better things and be part of it.  Like Ashton Kutcher said in his awesome Kids Choice Awards speech, "everything around you was created by someone else...and you can create things too."

Since we rarely use Facebook anymore (it's all just political extremism re-posts these days) our girls are not on Facebook and since I barely understand Twitter after using it for 3 years, they are not on Twitter.  But Jason and I made a conscious, intentional decision to allow our girls to use Instagram and that both Jason and I will have accounts and monitor our girls' interactions on Instagram.  Our girls accounts are private.  But for now, Jason and my accounts are public so we can learn to navigate that and see what comes of it and make sense of it.

If you want to let your kids use social media, I BEG YOU, PLEASE invest some time in using social media's an investment in your child's safety and future!