Click or treat: A parent’s role in social media

by Sue Scheff

As a parent you have the power to decide if your child is old or responsible enough to have any tech gadget that is on the market today.  

It is not only a privilege for a child to have a cell phone or any form of technology, it is a treat.   

As a parent you have the power to give treats and if your child does not behave responsibly or within the boundaries that you have set-up, you can remove their privileges (treats) – usually with a click of a keypad, and turn-off these privileges.

Yes, technology has become a way of parenting today – love it or hate it, we all need to embrace it.

Treating social media with respect:

Do you post with care and/or use your social media (Facebook) as a scrapbook?

  • I have witnessed some parents that use Facebook as a venting machine. Adults acting like children, using vulgar words, even profanity and posting some pictures that would make their kids blush.
  • When oversharing is not about caring: We constantly preach to our children about the risks of oversharing personal information yet we can look at some adults’ Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and immediately see that they are taking their personal lives to the edge. Whether it is about a new love interest or a recent divorce, some social media pages can get very personal and probably not for all eyes to read. If parents are treating social media like this – should we expect more from their kids? Remember, what you share is as important as how you share it.

When to click-off:

Do you know when it is time to sign-off?

  • You are watching a heated debate unravel on Twitter or Facebook that you have strong feelings about. You would love to be involved but you know your keystrokes may not be kind in their words. What do you do?
  • You have a sensitive email that needs to be sent. It’s always a good idea to sit on it for 24-hours.
  • Having a bad day, in an ugly mood?  It might be a good day not to sign into social media – just click off and know there is always tomorrow.

You are the cyber-role-model:

Click or treat, your kids are watching you too.

  • Parents will monitor their kids, but it is the kids that will snoop on their parents. What will your kids see when they glance at your wall? On your Twitter-feed? Or your Instagram?  
  • Who are your virtual friends? Teens are into the social-climb, counting the number of friends they have listed and who they are. Do you know all your friends on your friend list? You will need to explain why you have virtual friends that you do not know in real life and why you may not want them connecting to digital strangers.
  • We should all treat the Internet as if there were no such thing as privacy. Any email, tweet, picture, social media post, or text has the distinct possibility of being made public.

All kids today have the treat of technology and all parents today have the privilege of being able to be their social media role model. Take the time to learn about the different social networking sites your kids are on, chat with them about them – both online and off!  The more interested you are, the more engaged they will become. It’s not one conversation – it’s regular chats offline about online life.

The Internet is not going away, for the parents that want to keep their child in a bubble, it will bust eventually – probably sooner than you think. The sooner you start learning the social media rodeo, the better social media role model parent you will be.

Remember, you have the power to treat your child, and the ability to click it off when it is time to unplug. Being a parent first is a priority – your friendship will be built in the years to come – off and on social media.

Sue Scheff is an author and parent advocate. She founded Parents’ Universal Resource Experts, Inc in 2001. You can find Sue on Twitter at @SueSheff. Read more about her here.