Kids, Parents and Social Media
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Kids, Parents and Social Media

 
 
 
In the category of A Knack for Stating the Obvious, we have today a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics that advises us that social media can have deleterious effects on our kids.
 
 
To which I can only sputter: No kidding.
 
 
states that:  "...it is important that parents become aware of the nature of social media sites, given that not all of them are  healthy environments for children and adolescents."
 
 
Any parent who has a child involved in social media in any way -- Facebook, Twitter, AIM, texting, Formspring, etc.) needs to have the talk about values and guidelines for use, as well as consequences for misuse.
 
 
Like everything else to do with technology, these sites magnify the good and bad of human nature. With kids, their lack of experience and perspective acts as further intensifier. Little misunderstandings become hurt feelings become outright combat. Anonymity becomes an excuse for any ugly behaviour.
 
 
What kids fail to realize is that what might feel like private exchanges are really public bulletin boards with almost perpetual life. Stupid behaviour, captured in filthy language and explicit or even just misguided pictures, can find it's way into future searches by college admissions officers and employers, potential spouses and in-laws.
 
 
What parents may fail to realize is the infinite potential for mischief that these sites afford. For example-- Formspring (http://www.formspring.me/) is a site that allows kids to establish a bulletin board where anonymous posters get to ask any question that they like. Two guesses as to what kind of questions get posed. And what kind of comments follow on. It's excruciating.
 
 
Once guidelines for use and consequences for misuse are established, it's up to parents to monitor consistently. Yes, it's tedious and time-consuming. But it gives you a chance to get to know your kids friends (or "friends") as they are or as they wish to present themselves-- very enlightening. And it's really the only way to help your kids navigate this brave new world.
 
 
Some parents may prefer to simply not allow their kids access to social medial sites. Which is one way to protect them, but I think it has several potential drawbacks. The first is the lost opportunity to "inoculate" them-- the help you can provide in teaching them how to act, speak and respond in in the social media world. STEP's Positive Discipline approach prefers to guide kids to making good choices-- training wheels, if you will, for the day when they're on their own.
 
 
The bigger drawback may simply be that they decide to gain access without your knowledge (easy enough if they have any personal devices or simply access to a Wi-Fi connected computer) and set up under an alias.
 
 
Facebook doesn't require any ID for it's supposed age requirement of 13, and lots of kids establish a fake ID and tell their friends about it. Et voila, you now have no idea of what they may be doing-- or having done to them-- online.
 
 
Not only that, your kids' peers can set up fake sites about them and post just about anything they damn well please to embarrass and harass. If you're not online, you won't know about it.
 
 
ABC Family recently aired a movie called "Cyberbully" which presented a thoughtful and fairly accurate fictionalization of how a nice kid with a nice mom and nice friends can wind up ostracized and distraught when a few fairly innocuous events twist out of control, thanks to the magnifier effect of social media.
 
Thankfully there are lots of good resources for parents who want to get a little closer to the issue.
 
 
Just two to get started are: the brilliant danah boyd (no capitals in her name) a PhD and researcher for Microsoft and Harvard. You can find her blog here: http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/. A recent post discusses "sexting" among teenagers and it's impact on the tech industry.
 
 
Florida Atlantic University is home to the Cyberbullying Research Center. Find the home page here: http://www.cyberbullying.us/index.php. I met Dr, Sameer Hinduja earlier this year at a conference on this topic; his background is criminal justice. The CRC is dedicated to reducing online victimization and it's real-world costs.
 
 
 
I'd love to know how you are responding to these issues in your home. Please take a moment to drop a line in the comment section, below.

14 Comments to Kids, Parents and Social Media:

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Bert Elliot on Thursday, July 28, 2011 12:40 PM
Very well written Liz. My daughter is 13 yrs old. On her 13th birthday my wife and I allowed her to get texting. Though she wanted to get a Blackberry with internet access we did not give in to it (for many obvious reasons). We have our computer in a public area of our home and did not feel she should have 24 hour internet access.We also just allowed her to get a Facebook profile.I agree with Liz that our children need to start to learn responsibility. But not at the expense of the negative pitfalls of social media.They need to be introduced to responsibility slowly. (being that their brains frontal lobe is not fully developed until around 25 years old). That is the part of the brain that reasons, understands responsibility,and consequences. Because of that lack of biological maturity we as parents need to continue to guide as well as monitor their decision making process.If we have put trust into our childs development then they understand we have their back and are just doing our job as parents in protecting some of their choices.My daughter has asked on her own about every picture she would like to post on FB. That communication is invaluable for both sides. She knows not to accept any friend requests of anyone she does not know. Of course it doesn't hurt that we monitor her activity on the site. This gives her the opportunity to make decisions and teaches independence at the same time. I feel children want to know they have limitations and that their parents are there to protect them. Many parents feel its better to be a friend to their children.BIG mistake! That is lazy and irresponsible. Of course its more work to say know and stick to your guns. But children need and want that type of parenting. They love us unconditionally so why not have them love us knowing we have their best interest at heart. It makes for a more confident and level headed child. Getting back to social media. Monitor,monitor,monitor. Communicate with your child and explain why you as their parent are making the choices your making. They'll understand (once they get over their hissy fit). If they are having problems with anyone bullying them,they need to know they can come to you about it. And that you will 'help' handle it. I say help because we are the voice of reason. With our guidance they may be able to take care of it themselves. Which can only help them grow and give confidence for future negative experiences.
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Liz Neville on Thursday, July 28, 2011 1:40 PM
Beautifully put Bert. We just need to get that point of view out to parents who may just be too distracted, or too trusting, or too naive about the potential for mischief and more serious problems. Online media is nothing more or less than real life-- only with a magnifying glass over it.


Diane Weir on Wednesday, August 03, 2011 9:44 PM
Excellent blog Liz. Thank you for posting those websites as well. I wish I had seen that "Cyberbully" movie on ABC Family. We live in a world of endless possibilities and wonderful opportunities, especially with the internet at our fingertips and (at the risk of sounding like my mom) "so many advancements in technology". But as we know with all of those positive aspects come many challenges and unfortunately, dangers. Our kids don't realize how serious the ramifications can be with Facebook with irresponsible or inappropriate posts -- and I only recently heard about Formspring. One simple sentence that Bert posted above is most important -- monitor, monitor, monitor. Communication is the key - keep those lines open at all times. Thank you for a great post Liz!
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Liz Neville on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 9:51 PM
Thanks for checking in Diane! I think it's so important for parents to hear from each other with regard to these values. Our kids can give us the impression that "everybody else is allowed" when they think a nudge is enough to get consent. We need to hang together! Definitely keeping an eye out-- we stumbled on Formspring because lots of kids put the link out there on their FB pages for their friends to visit. Not only friends visit, and it can get ugly quick. The joys of the modern parent!


Maria Kistler on Thursday, August 11, 2011 10:35 AM
Hi Liz: I completely agree, I have been 'preaching' communication, diligence and monitoring whenever this topic arises. We have orchestrated so much of their lives from playdates to soccer leagues, how can we expect them to navigate this 'new age' of socializing alone, especially during an already trying 'hormonal' stage. We are always being told that we are our childrens best advocate when it comes to school and medical issues, and it is no different when it comes to socializing and social media.
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Liz Neville on Thursday, August 11, 2011 9:04 PM
Thanks so much for your comments Maria. I'm glad to meet another parent "on the same page" and the committment to do the necessary hard stuff. Please keep us posted on your opinions--
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Janice L. on Thursday, August 11, 2011 9:07 PM
Great blog!! Social media in our home is not in demand. ... our son did not get a cell phone until Christmas of his 8th grade year. He understood the implications of inappropriate usage of his phone and understands that even if a text or picture is deleted it is in "cyberspace" forever. Our younger son (entering 7th grade) will get a phone in the 8th grade. No need for one. he has friends with cell phones and communicates with me via a phone in the office at the middle school if something comes up last minute regarding pickup. He also knows to use this phone in the event I am not at pickup. My husband and I think Facebook is a waste of time. Our older son has no interest in having a page. Easy for us...I guess. I did tell him how detrimental Facebook can be. Did you hear about the college senior who was accepted to Harvard University. He posted on his Facebook page that he was having a celebration and that there would be "coke". Harvard found the page and told him he was no longer invited to be a member of the incoming Freshman class. How devestating... This act will follow this young man in the future, maybe even affect his job search. There is a positive side to Facebook, a young woman in our town who is attending college in Sept. used Facebook to find her roommate. Hopefully it will be a good match!! Never heard of Formspring (sp???). Very weird site and disturbing. So, I can't comment. With regard to kids setting up pages in the name of my son....I do go on line and check out what is going on. Lastly, I hope that our son will utilize websites that will assist him with his future such as Linkedin. I'm sure he will given the purpose of this website. Keep blogging. Look forward to hearing about other issues.
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Donna Scholes on Saturday, August 27, 2011 7:22 PM
Hi Liz! This has certainly given me a lot of food for thought. My girls are begging for Facebook, and we have consistently said NO, thinking that we are protecting them from the ills of social media. After reading your blog and the comments that followed, we find ourselves rethinking our position. It is so nice to have a forum to hear different viewpoints. Thanks for a great job!
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Liz Neville on Tuesday, September 06, 2011 10:38 AM
Hey Donna-- thanks for checking in. It really is a dilemma-- the reach this stuff has is amazing-- I think it's the most ubiquitous of all media. Remember -the old brush-off comment about TV programming: "Well if you don't like it you can just turn the channel"? It never really convinced me-- it's the community pool, and no one is unaffected. Keep us posted on your thoughts and how you plan to handle it---


MILLIE on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 1:12 AM
It is exactly true that social media has a great effect to our kids. We the parents should alert to this issue and should try to avoid all kinds of bad side of social media to our child's. Thanks
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Aaron Ben on Monday, November 05, 2012 1:55 AM
What a great article shared about social media that is awesome description for all. Nowadays social media are the most important thing for communicating, dealing and anything etc. Above fantastic explanation about social media effect is very useful for all. Thanks :)
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montre luxe pas cher on Sunday, August 11, 2013 7:59 AM
Pas de persistance et de persévérance, les deux ne seront pas de bons résultats, il n'est pas exécution diligente. Comment les gens ont vraiment assidus vont tomber dans l'oubli faire?
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www.collegepaper.org on Friday, September 27, 2013 10:32 AM
Yeah, what you said is true. It is part of the responsibility of the parents to know what they're kids are up to. In these modern times, it is very important that parents see and monitor what they're kids are doing online to avoid any problems.
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college paper on Monday, September 30, 2013 3:39 AM
Parents should really be responsible on any matters that involves the welfare of their kids. I believe it is their responsibility to make sure that any outside elements won't harm their kids physically, emotionally, and mentally.
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