I'm not in the habit of befriending teenagers on social media. For the most part, it's because I don't want to have to be second guessing myself every time I'm about to post on my personal Facebook wall, asking if your little snowflake should be exposed to this topic or that. But there's also a little part of me that avoids the teenagers because most of them make me cringe.
The things they post ... The spelling! The TMI!
For some teenagers (note I didn't say all), social media is like the Wild West, a place they go to hide out from the parents, a place they haven't been prepped for by anyone ... least of all the aforementioned parents. At the risk of sounding old, I have to ask: whatever happened to manners? You need them online too!
I know my kid isn't perfect, and she's sure to make some mistakes when we finally let her loose on the world wide web, but I refuse to let her be one of those kids who makes adults cringe on Facebook (or one of those adults who makes us cringe, for that matter). After reading etiquette expert Faye De Muyshondt's socialsklz :-) (Social Skills) for Success: How to Give Children the Skills They Need to Thrive in the Modern World, I'm feeling a little bit better about what lies ahead of us.
Today's kids may be more tech savvy than us, their parents, but it's still up to us to teach them how to navigate the social system that exists online. Fortunately, De Muyshondt provides some simple online social skills parents should help kids develop:
1. Email: Kids should know how to craft a proper email just as they would a formal letter, but they also need to know how to BCC (blind carbon copy) to protect email addresses from being shared and when to simply CC (carbon copy) multiple addresses.
2. Passwords: The first rule of opening any accounts online? Don't share your passwords! Not even with your best friend. And don't share your friends' passwords either!
3. Privacy Settings: These vary depending on the social media platform, but it comes back to your rules. Is it OK for your teen to friend your best friend on Facebook? Follow your sister on Instagram? Google Plus? Set rules for every site and explain why the rules exist. Kids need to understand that not everyone out there needs to see everything about their lives and vice versa.
4. Photos: This is another issue that varies from account to account, but really comes down to your rules. Let your kids know what is acceptable for sharing online and how much should be public vs. private. Not only do you not want photos of your half nekkid teen out there, the rest of us don't want to SEE those photos. Not to mention, posting photos of other people online is not always acceptable. Teach your kids to ask their friends if THEIR parents are OK with their photos showing up online and to be respectful if someone wants to "untag" themselves.
5. Public Posts: Once you've gotten past what should be locked up, it's time to discuss what they put out for others to see. You can (and should) establish firm rules on language and particular kinds of information (such as the family's vacation schedule) that should be kept offline, even on semi-private accounts. Your neighbor down the block doesn't need to read posts about what a "b-word" the principal is.
Have you discussed these issues with your kids yet? What are your other concerns with an online presence?
Images via espensorvik/Flickr; Jeanne Sager