Talking to Teens and Tweens About SM: Is It A Good Idea?

It’s not just a good idea. It’s an absolute imperative for every parent, to talk to their kids about social media (SM) — every day. But, what do you say?

First, it’s wise for you to develop your own SM skills. And, the best way to start to do that is to maintain your own SM profile: open a Facebook (FB) account, and try tweeting on Twitter, to get started. You can’t know everything, so don’t pretend that you do. But developing your own SM skills can help you talk more relevantly to your child – and most importantly, give you the knowledge to help keep your child out of SM trouble.

Ask your teen or tween about what they are doing on SM – every day. Share your own experiences, as well, as a way to open them up. Ask questions like: “Did you use the computer or Internet today?” “Who did you hear from?” “Did anyone text you today?”

Make sure that your kids know that talking about SM is normal – and sharing information about who and what they see in SM is something that you are interested in and care about.

If your kids are just getting started with SM, then ask them if they are interested. You may be surprised to find out that they already have an FB profile. If they do, then tell them you’d like to see it – and friend them.

Kids tend to work with the same SM tools that their friends have – so you can start a conversation with your child and his or her friends about SM as a way to see if they are active or just interested.

For every SM tool that your child is using, make sure that they know how to use the privacy options appropriately. This is a first and critical step, for helping your child to avoid SM trouble.

Consider establishing an SM contract with your child. The contract lets your child know that SM is a privilege – and if that they are obligated to conduct themselves with appropriate SM behavior or lose that privilege. On a later blog post, we will share a model SM contract along with information on how you can implement a contract with your child.

Most of all, use your parental radar – stay tuned in with your child. SM can be a wonderful adventure. But, be on the watch as well, for classic warning signs which can alert you that all is not well – such skipped meals and activities, lack of sleep, or lowered grades. If you notice any of these, then check in with your child and step up your SM monitoring.

– Signing off for now, SS

Why Online Social Savvy?

Ever since I read that teens and tweens could be registered as sexual offenders — for the rest of their lives — for sexting (the practice of texting sexual pictures), I realized that the world of online social media was a whole level more serious than most parents and children have recognized. And, the more times that I see stories appear in the press — such as those on Tyler Clementi in Sept 2010, and Phoebe Prince in March — the more I realize that more education and guidance is needed on the appropriate use of social media for all of us.

I am a parent of a 13 yo girl — and as a parent, I wonder where most parents turn when their children get caught up in social media and it all goes wrong. To whom can they turn for help and advice? What are the warning signals to look for? What resources are available, to help diffuse situations — before they get out of control? And, simpler questions — like should you friend your son’s girlfriend? These come up a lot, and yet there is little to no source of expertise available, to help parents and teachers to give better advice.

Also, where do young people turn to when they need help and advice about online social media? Whom can you trust? Who actually knows the answers, for how to rebuild reputations and avoid attacks?

The social universe isn’t all just scary, of course. New opportunities unfold in new ways online, every day. The key to mastering the social universe, is to know how to make it work for you — and not against you. And, to realize that whatever impressions you build in the social universe are not fleeting – like memories - but are permanently etched into the digital record. If, at 18, you post pictures of yourself with your drinking buddies then you must realize that at age 38 these images may come back to haunt you — maybe when you are up for a big promotion.

All of this contributes to my reasons for bringing Online Social Savvy to life: I want to provide help and advice to parents, young adults, teens and tweens. I want to provide it on the subjects of getting the most from your online social media experience — and using it to support your best goals and asperations in life — while preventing it from becoming your worst nightmare.  I want to provide this in a way which is immediately available, topical and informed. To make this possible, I’m teaming with some of the best social media experts available — and I will invite guest bloggers to participate and comment, from time to time, as may be appropriate to the situation.

As we kick off 2011, we welcome you to provide us with your reactions and input — and let us know YOUR most pressing questions about developing some online social savvy.

– Signing off for now, SS