Note From Keri Lyn ~ I just wanted to mention how thrilled I am to have Eileen guest posting this series on the blog! Eileen has been a dear friend for several years. She is an amazing mom and honestly THE very funnest person to visit Disneyland with. I love her passion for protecting our kids and families in social media and I am SO thrilled to have her sharing her expertise here weekly with all of us! Some of these topics are not the easiest, but they are definitely very timely and often eye-opening. I hope you will enjoy this series as much as I do!
This post is the seventh post in this series. Make sure to read Eileen’s other posts: How to Talk to Your Kids About Social Media, Questions to Help Start Social Media Conversations with Your Kids and Eileen’s other Smart Parenting articles here.
Here’s a bonus to teaching classes about parenting kids on social media: I’ve probably learned even more than I’ve taught about this subject! Am I holding back information from the parents I teach? NO WAY! I just mean I’m blessed to learn a tremendous amount from interacting with thousands of parents and students.
Lucky me and lucky for my three sons! I get to raise them with background knowledge about online behavior. BUT -does knowing about this mean my boys won’t have or create trouble online? Absolutely NOT. This just means I may have an idea of how to clean up the mess after it happens!
I also may be able to predict what mess my children may create or face based on who I know my children to be already. I talk about this in my classes and I’ll attempt to share it here with you.
Our kids give us clues about how they might behave on social media before they ever create an online profile.
What do I mean by this? Read on and let’s do a little experiment, shall we?
Answer these questions about your kids and I think you’ll understand what I’m talking about:
- Is your child influenced by what others think of them or what others do? How much?
- How inquisitive is your child and what topics do the questions center around?
- When your child really wants something, how do they go about trying to get it?
- Kids aren’t perfect -they’re human! So that means they don’t always make good choices for themselves. How does your child react when they get “in trouble”?
- When it comes to sexuality, how many questions has your child asked or how have you discussed this topic with them?
- How does your child behave with boundaries and responsibilities you’ve put in place in other areas?
Answering these questions honestly helps parents think about possibilities for online behavior. Now ask each question again and add the phrase “on social media” to the end of each question. (Sure, you may be making predictions, but that’s okay.) See if your answers stay the same or shift a bit from an online perspective.
Now let’s talk about answers a little bit. I’ll break down each question and what behaviors could mean. Ready?
Influenced by others: If your child talks a lot about what others said or did, or they place a lot of value on the opinions or discussions with others, social media could tap into this. Your child could be greatly influenced by “likes” or comments or number of followers. They may place a lot of importance on what others say and do online. Help your child keep their identity grounded in the real world as much as it feels connected to an online world.
Inquiring minds want to know: If your child asks a lot of “big questions,” (‘Where did all the water on our planet come from,’ for example.) your child may explore these questions online or with social media. Work with your child and show examples of how these questions can be explored and answers can be learned. The information available online is outstanding! Teach your child how to explore responsibly and learn, learn and LEARN.
We want what we want when we want it: Social media and online access can create instant gratification. You want to know an answer? Google it. There it is. You want to hear a song or watch a movie? Stream it. It’s yours. Video and music stores can’t compete with online-instant-availability. Here’s an interesting experiment: deny your children something. Make them work for it. See what happens. If your child has a difficult time with delayed gratification, find ways to work this into their lives in big and small ways. It’s been statistically proven to create positive attributes including resiliency and fortitude. We all want these for our kids, right? **There’s SO MUCH more to talk about with this topic -I’ll explore this in the future -stay tuned!**
Reacting to mistakes: Are your kids hard on themselves when they make a mistake? Do they try to cover their tracks? Do they deny anything and everything to avoid punishment? Do they tell you before you find out -because they know you’ll find out anyway? Kids can think they can get away with things online they wouldn’t dream of doing in real life. If your child works in stealth-mode in real life, they could stay stealthy online. Be a sleuth!
Sexual curiosity: A friend of mine gave a smart phone to her child who showed appropriate, innocent, yet sexual curiosity from a young age. What do you think that child did? You guessed it: Googled all sorts of stuff. YIKES! We can’t live backwards, unfortunately, but my friend sure wishes they did. This child was going to try to get this information no matter what, but my friend wished they had put some parameters around things and not put a completely permissive device into their child’s hands. If your child is curious, give them ways to talk about things with you and with your guidance. If you don’t, they may seek information elsewhere.
Boundaries and responsibilities: Your child can’t remember to make good choices with friends in real life. Can they be responsible with a phone and social media? Maybe, maybe not. Different children show various levels of maturity and responsibility. If your child leaves their jacket behind at school and can’t remember to turn in homework, maybe try to get things in place for them before you hand over an expensive phone just because “all the other kids have one!” Or offer less-expensive options until certain obligations get met consistently. Or maybe wait to get a phone and go on social media at all? You’ll need to explore what works best for your family.
This is so much to look at! What’s the Bottom Line here, Eileen? Take inventory of who you know your child to be in real life. Think about how this transfers to online behavior. Can kids surprise us? You bet -it’s part of the job description! All I’m saying is head into the world of social media with your eyes open to what could happen and how your kids may behave in the space based on what you know already.
And remember: always set a good example yourself.
Keep being awesome, connected parents and let me know if you want a topic covered here. I’ll do my best to help you out. Thanks for the opportunity, Keri Lyn!
Connect with Eileen
If you are looking to learn more about and to stay up to date on the latest social media happenings and trends, especially where kids are concerned, then I highly encourage you to follow Eileen in social media!