Sorry, Mom & Dad. Your Kids Are On Social Media

I have one or two kids in every class I teach. Teenagers who have no Social Media accounts. No Facebook. No Instagram. No Twitter, Kik, SnapChat or any other platform that teen are using today. I make a point of saying to these kids “you are my favourite person”, mainly because I know that there is a lot of peer pressure to have Social Media accounts, but also because these kids will not have an ugly Social Media Footprint gained through years of having had unfettered access to a place that is basically a house party, when the parents aren’t home.

I teach kids how to use Social Media properly and effectively. I teach them how to clean up their foot print, manage the security on their accounts and how to develop an online presence that will help them in the future, rather than act like the proverbial albatross that hounded a certain mariner. One of the things that I teach these kids (Grades 10 thru 12) is how to set up and manage a LinkedIn account. Teaching them now about what they WILL need in the future, as they head out of school and into the Work Force or Universities. Teachers think it is great, because it limits the endless piles of badly formatted and grammatically incorrect hard copy resumes that they have to go through, as kids learn about resume writing and go out for Work Experience. Kids love it, almost for the same reasons. So when I had a parent come to me and say “we don’t want our daughter to have a LinkedIn account. We don’t want her to have any Social Media accounts”, it told me two things; 1. that these parents probably aren’t aware of what LinkedIn is and 2. Mom and Dad aren’t aware of the fact that their daughter is already on Social Media….only they (and she) just don’t know it.

It’s The Tech.

teens-phones-text-technologySmartPhones are the culprit. Cameras tucked in pockets, connected to the Internet and ready to snap and chat on a moments notice. They go everywhere with them. Home, School, Sports, Parties, even the bathroom (apparently the bathroom has the best mirror and lighting for the perfect selfie). With these phones, they document their lives. Nothing is out of bounds. They think their friends will like it, they post it. They have a beef about something, they post it. They are happy, sad, angry, tired, hungry, they post it. Now, more than ever, it is with a picture or a video and THAT is where the “Non-Social Media User” gets nailed. They are in the picture and instantly visible to anyone and everyone that has access to that account. Names are attached, but not tagged. Locations are tagged, but not mentioned. Basically everything that would happen if the child DID have an account is happening, only without their knowledge (or, at the very least, without their understanding of the broader picture).

Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em.

Now, the immediate thought of the “My Kid is Not on Social Media” parent is to say “don’t let people take you picture with a smart phone”. Well, that is kind of like standing on the edges of a room that a grenade has been thrown into and saying “don’t get it hit by shrapnel”. Sure you can say to your friends “look, please don’t post any pictures of me to your Social Media accounts”. In fact, I recommend this with or without having your own accounts. It’s still going to happen though. There is just as much likelihood of a person they don’t know, taking a picture of them, as there is of a person they do know. So, rather than remaining oblivious to the conversations that are happening, regardless of whether they are online or not, why not have your kids in the Social Space, but properly educated as to how to effectively use that space, be safe in that space and manage their time in that space.

Parents Need to Get Onboard.

socialparentLook, Mom and Dad. This is happening. There is no hiding from it. You can try to hide it from your kids, but they will walk out the door of your home and see it all, anyway. It’s like that evil Rock ‘n Roll thing, back in the 1950’s. You cannot escape it. The train is not just coming. It is here and it will be here until everyone has boarded, before it leaves and the next one comes in. Rather than living in the dark about Social Media and the technology that is being used by teens, today, take some time to actually learn about it. Talk to your kids about what they are learning, where they are online, conversations they are having. Not in the “I am your parent and you will tell me everything that you are doing!” kind of way. More in the “hey, I am interested in learning more about these things that you are doing. It sounds really interesting.” kind of way. Keeping that form of personal communication open, with your kids, will help you better understand their online world and give you a chance to do what you are supposed to be doing, as a parent; guide them down the safe path.
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