Wringing your hands over social media? Don’t.
Instead, use your energy to learn as much as you can. A parent’s goal is to develop enough knowledge to provide guidance and supervision based on significant family values, even as these media continue to evolve. Continued learning is always required if one aims to help children avoid potential pitfalls.
Thinking that social media will eventually disappear wastes time and energy.
Five Tips to Help You Get Going
1. Ask your child on a regular basis — and definitely without belittling yourself — to help you learn a new technology skill. Start with some of the easier web 2.0 interactive sites such as Wordle to make cool word designs or Diigo to save your bookmarks in a place accessible from anywhere. Keep learning.
2. Accept that social networking is not a fad and that life is not the way it used to be when you were young. Any doubt? Watch this video on the social media revolution.
3. Insist that your child follow website age rules, even when the requirements seem trivial to you. Ignoring an age limit is lying. Read the New York Times article, Facebook Users Who Are Under Age Raise Concerns. If your child is under age 13 and needs Facebook for certain activities, you should join so that the two of you can conduct the activity together until the magic age is reached. This also provides lots of time for you to collaborate and model sensible digital behavior.
4. Set up a social media project that the whole family (not just the clever social networkers) can work on together. Start a joint family blog on Word Press, create family videos to post on a private YouTube site, compile a digital picture book on Shutterfly, figure out how to easily edit photos on Picasa, or join an online community of book lovers like Shelfari. Getting started on these projects with younger children is a great way for you to learn while also modeling appropriate digital behavior — before kids initiate more independent digital endeavors.
5. Use your increasing knowledge to initiate family conversations before problems start to occur. Acquiring information while working alongside your child helps a parent determine when digital supervision is required — and when it’s not.
Nothing is really that different from the supervision you give for other activities in your child’s life. In fact, nothing is that different from the supervision parents provided a generation ago. Each generation faces challenges and cultural changes. Parents will always need to learn more about the activities that their children love. It’s a matter of keeping up.