Hello SOTGC community,
Well, I did it; I took the plunge and allowed my 6th grade twin boys to start an Instagram account. Now it all starts; the constant reviewing of their accounts and controlling who they follow and approving those that follow them. This has become another time consuming activity, yet one that I have committed to NOT taking any short cuts.
Over the last few months since they have jumped on the social media bandwagon, I have learned a lot. First, I am taking time to share my opinion and/or perception I acquired on their posts or those of their friends/followers. Second, I am making a more conscience effort to model the behavior I want my children to possess when interacting on social media. Third, the rule has been set, “if you want to follow my child or them to follow you, you get me as well.”
I quickly found that being on Instagram was only the beginning with their desire to explore the intriguing space of social media. Regardless of the begging and pleading that ensued in the beginning, they are only allowed the one account. It is more important for me to watch their behavior on one social media account and teach appropriate social media behavior instead of trying to navigate several accounts. Additionally, some accounts require a minimum age, which my boys have not reached, and regardless of what “some of our friends have done it…” I am not allowing them to be dishonest in the process.
When we set up their accounts, I had several basic rules:
- Your setting will always be set to private.
- Your password will only be shared with Dad and me! Sharing passwords can result in posts being sent from your account that is inappropriate…whether you sent it or not, you will be the one disciplined.
- Followers/Following People – must always be approved by me, that way I know who I am opening you up to. I will continue to review for approvals or new people following, so don’t think about getting someone past me. I will find it.
- Do NOT bully and Do NOT ALLOW bullying. Period. Stand up for others and report it immediately.
- I have access to your account, just as you do.
- What you post is out there forever. Do not put something out there that will come back on you later. If your grandmothers/grandfathers read your posts, what would they think?
- If you see something inappropriate (comments, language, pictures, etc.) bring it to my attention ASAP. Do not comment on it, which will only get you in trouble.
As we continue growing and learning together in this new chapter of parenting, new rules are put in place. I have enjoyed the conversations that we have engaged in and has also led me to wanting to share my perspective more globally.
Recently I have become more sensitive to what I see on my social media accounts, specifically Facebook. In an evening I can scroll through my news feed and find some fun family-friendly posts, family vacation pictures, inspiring quotes, sharing of self-improvement articles, recipes, all of which I can have my 8-year-old daughter looking at with me. That takes up about half of the posts that we see, then there are the other half that is filled with questionable information, language and/or pictures.
This leads me to a dilemma: How to teach my children without building a negative perception of their friends, friend’s parents or other acquaintances we have connection to? It is not easy, so instead, I am sharing my perspective based on actual interactions I have seen throughout my news feeds. Let me start by saying, yes, we are all human and have moments we ‘let our hair down,’ however, I have two pre-teen boys that do not need to be exposed to certain types of selfies and innuendos too soon. I will still manage and control their social media activity, but I am also realistic in that I will not always be able to monitor what they see.
All parents and adults alike need to come together and ensure we are demonstrating a healthy brand image on social media that teaches self-worth, preservation, appropriateness and open-mindedness. Our future generations were born with tablets and smartphones in hand; it is our role to ensure they understand the impact one text, post, or picture can have on them years from now.
I ask you to take a few moments and ask yourself this, even your children:
- What does your social media behavior say about your personal brand?
- What is the purpose of your 10+ selfies in a day?
- What message are you sending when posting a picture about a child/pet and their picture is cut off to ensure you are front and center?
- If you are mad at someone (family/friend), why are you posting it in a public forum?
- What if, you typed out a thought/feeling/frustration on a Word doc, then come back a day later? If you no longer feel that way, delete it, if you do, post it. A lesson on reacting with logic versus emotion!
- Parents, why is it necessary that you post pictures making obscene gestures? Is that the type of behavior you want your children to have?
- Enjoy your freedom of speech, but do it with grace, integrity, compassion and empathy. Remember, it is out there forever, even Snapchats!
We have only 18 very short years to help build positive foundations with our children. Our first role should always be their parent, not their best friend! We should set boundaries, teach them about consequences of their actions and praise their accomplishments. It is just as important for us to be, and to surround them with, positive role models. As they grow, they will become products of their surroundings. Whether you are a parent or have interactions with our younger generations, they are watching and emulating us. So I ask you this:
Your social media personal brand…What does yours say about you?
We have children and young adults that need to realize the impact of their social media activities. Be a role model to them so they have the opportunity to be positive and productive members of society today and in their adult years. Please take a moment and share post this on your social media accounts…Tweet, Pin or share on LinkedIn or Facebook.