I bet you have a friend that isn’t interested in social media, not even Facebook. Do they complain that they never know what’s going on? Or maybe you are in charge of a group that communicates primarily through Facebook or another social media tool – and for that ONE person, you have to copy and paste the exact message and email or text it to them?! It’s frustrating, right?!
Social media makes communicating so much easier – and that’s a good and bad thing. As responsible adults, social media is a convenience. We keep in touch with old friends, we have groups communications for our organizations, we even have parent pages where the teachers share details of classroom events. However, as kids grow up in this digital world, it can also be fun, confusing, and also very dangerous as they learn the ropes of how to be smart at social media. My heart aches for those kids whose parents are off the social grid, and they’re left to vulnerably navigate this new age. For nearly every other life and social challenge, kids can get advice from mom and dad, but for those with digitally devoid parents, they have to look to their friends for guidance and you know that’s not always a good thing.
The combination of kids and social media is a polarizing topic, even in my own home. I believe in the approach that it’s better to be aware of the dangers, be involved, and help my daughter to use the internet in safe ways. I feel strongly about this issue and you can bet that social media and effective parenting will be a recurring theme on Mommy Upgrade. Please visit my resource page here to help arm yourself with parenting tools for digitally active families. I’ve even written a letter (below) for you to share with your friends who are unrealistic about the whole “online life” their kid has or will soon have. I started writing it from a place of anger, and over the past couple of versions have toned it down and toned it down so that it will hopefully be a more gentle but direct message. Know that some on the receiving end of it will still find offense in you butting your nose in. I get that. But if you have a parent friend who is blissfully ignorant about social media and messaging apps, I want to help.
Copy, cut and paste the message below into an email and send it to them. Modify it in any way to get the message across! Call them and have a frank conversation based on the talking points in it. Direct them to our resource page. Let’s make sure we do our part to create healthy digital families and mini model digital citizens!
I understand that you don’t “like” social media and you are not interested in it. You prefer to wait for a phone call or a text, or even a letter to tell you what’s going on with your friends and family. Here’s the thing: Not only are you missing out on communication that’s important to you, you’re losing an opportunity to parent effectively. Kids are spending more time online – and it’s unavoidable. School assignments and learning tools are online. Social media is and messaging is how kids interact with each other. It’s their life. It’s different than the way you grew up, and it’s time to embrace it.
As a parent of a child in 2016, it’s your responsibility to have a first hand understanding of how social media and messaging works, how people behave there, and to be a role model for your children on what good digital citizenship is – that includes also recognizing and calling out what it is not acceptable behavior. How can you have a frank and open discussion about online behavior and provide believable advice if you’ve never been online? Furthermore, telling your child that since you exist without using social media and therefore they shouldn’t have to use social media and messaging either, simply isn’t realistic for them today and puts you further out of touch. It’s time for you to stop seeing this issue from a singular perspective and think about the bigger picture of what your blissfully ignorant approach could lead to.
TV has likely told you about the recent tragedy of the young girl near Virginia Tech who wound up dead after developing an online friendship with evil people. She communicated through clever phone apps that deleted her messages and didn’t save them to her phones at all – and her parents were CLUELESS about what was happening. If the parents of that Virginia girl were more digitally savvy, would the story have the same ending? We’ll never know and I certainly am NOT casting blame, but let’s not let her death be in vain either. Please join me in our efforts to be aware and a good online role model for our kids. I’m not asking you to spend hours a day on Facebook or Snapchat, but only to set an example for your kids of what a healthy online footprint looks like and how to keep their use in moderation and their perceptions based in reality. Social media is NOT going away, it is NOT a phase, and I’m afraid that if you don’t get in front of it, you could discover that your child is a victim of it. I’d never live with myself if I thought there was any way that you or I could have prevented or diffused something awful.
I’ll understand if you’re mad at me for sending this, please know that it comes from a place of concern and love. I care and I only want to help keep your children safe. If all this is too overwhelming, give their phone or computer to me or someone else who can help, but please, please, do something.
Warning, they may not speak to you for a while. It may take a bit for the gravity of your message to sink in. They might not even read to the end. They may even respond back bitterly, but that’s a risk you take. Sometimes it’s a painful nudge from your best friends that can help guide your path, and hopefully this was the shove they needed and we collectively, can be better at social media and effective parenting in this digital world we click in. Visit our parent’s resource page for digital safety.