Parents, we must know what the heck is going on with social media

I am pretty certain a large number of you are fans of the show, Downton Abbey – RIGHT?

Remember the episode when the telephone first arrived at Downton?   Nobody wanted to even touch the phone let alone try and use it.  There was also the infamous scene where The Dowager snarks, “Is this an instrument of communication or torture?” while her granddaughter tried to hold in a laugh.



For some time now, I have been thinking to myself how that particular scene reminds me of social media.  Particularly, social media and parents’ hesitancy to get involved.  My kids would think “un-involvement” is a very strange notion.  In fact, they would probably tell you, they could stand for a little less involvement.


Yet, over the last few years—many fellow parents have told me, they “do not want to be a part of Facebook, or Insta-whatever you call it.”  


I always ask, “Why?”  To which, I get typical answers:


“I don’t want to connect with old boyfriends or girlfriends.”

“I have no idea how to tweet or twit.  Plus, why would anyone care what I have to say?”

“That stuff is for my kids.”


EXACTLY!!!  Let’s just set aside all the great networking and business opportunities which can evolve out of social media AND table how much fun it is to look at your sorority sister’s 154 photos of their most recent family trip to Aruba.  Why would a parent not want to understand what their kids were doing on social media?


Facebook recently introduced new policies specifically for teens.  Examining how these applied to my kids and what they meant was my FIRST action upon learning about them.


I don’t need The New York Times or any parenting expert to reiterate to me how teens act impulsively, don’t think things through, and potentially jeopardize their future with what they put online.  Not because I have a degree (actually two) in adolescent development, I simply know because I am a parent.  Whose teenager doesn’t ever say something they regret in the heat of the moment?  Better yet—I don’t know anyone from when we were growing up (prehistoric times), who did not send a note in class and live to regret what was written on it.


NOW, our kids write that shit online.  On Facebook walls.  In tweets.  In Instagram comments.  Via Snapchat where hopefully photos sent self-destruct before someone captures the screen….and, just this morning, I learned kids can Snapback to save and share the photos.


As parents, if we do not at least try to understand and use these mediums, we have no clue what the pitfalls really mean—and, the pitfalls are HUGE.


Look what happened in Steubenville.  This awful story was featured in Rolling Stone on cyber-bullying and suicide.  These are two incidents of abuse of social media in the worst way.  They are only two examples of a major problem, but just the word SUICIDE should have us clued in how REAL this situation is and will continue to be —social media is not going away.


Cyber-bullying is real.  Very real.  Unfortunately, it has made our job of parenting that much more difficult.  In fact, some days, I think I am doing more policing than parenting, but there are lessons learned in knowing what your kid is doing online.  Teachable moments, where you can show the difference between right or wrong, or your child can learn to stick up for a fellow friend/classmate/teammate who is being wronged.


photo: MediaBistro

photo: MediaBistro


I know it seems like A LOT, an added burden when we already have so much on our plate.  However, at the end of the day, these kids are just that-kids.  Whether we call them kids or teens or young adults, they are still growing and maturing, and it our job as parents, to help.


The first step in helping is knowing.  Knowing what the heck is going on in social media.



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