By Anne Collier
Did you know that we parents are pretty darn engaged with the young social media users at our houses? To our credit, I feel, most of us are folding social media into our parenting, the Pew Internet researchers report. For example – although high school student Jake tells his friend that he’s “probably the only kid in the world with their mom on Facebook” in this engaging YouTube dramatization by Harvard’s Berkman Center – he’s a bit off the mark:
* 69% of mothers of 12-to-17-year-olds use social network sites and…
* 63% of dads of 12-to-17-year-olds use social sites.
* So a full two-thirds (66%) of all parents of people 12-17 use social sites now, up from 58% in 2011.
Then there’s the conversation between Jake and his friend about parental monitoring – after Jake’s mom tells him to accept her friend request on, um, what was that site, “MyFace”? Jake says he’s not going to be like their friend Marcie, who has a profile with 8 friends her mom knows about and one with 800 friends her mom doesn’t know about. To his credit, Jake says that “seems sneaky and desperate,” and he won’t do that. I have a feeling he’s in the majority, even though half of parental social media users have commented on something posted to their children’s profile, Pew found. (In their next study, I hope they can find out how many teens have gone underground on their parents and, if so, whether that’s because of parents commenting on their “walls,” profiles, or “timelines.”)
[Canada’s premier media-literacy organization, MediaSmarts, found recently that our kids are remarkably accepting of the unprecedented monitoring social media has afforded parents and other adults. They feel that, with the Internet, “parents, teachers and corporations keep them under constant surveillance,” so they now see monitoring as “the price of admission” for being able to use connected media and devices (see this).]
Public parenting benefits who?
But the video ends with a pained look on Jake’s face after he gets home, checks his Facebook profile and confronts his mom about a baby photo of him she has posted on FB – after she tells him she’s working on a whole album of his baby photos to post. Now, I know you would not do that, dear readers, but please help spread the word that, if parents don’t want their kids to go into stealth mode online, they need to consider using the kind of discretion they want their kids to use in their use of social media.
If it’s hard to imagine how embarrassing being parented in public is to our kids, then imagine…
* How it reflects on us. It probably only looks good to Facebook friends who are either firm believers in helicopter parenting or otherwise oblivious to young people’s perspectives
* How easy it is for our kids to avoid the embarrassment just by moving on to other sites or social tools we’ve never heard of or by using strategies like Marcie’s in Facebook and
* How many opportunities for casual, non-confrontational communication are lost if our kids go underground
* How satisfying, productive and protective parenting can be when communication lines are open but private and mutually respectful.
Or maybe we can remember how we felt growing up when our parents went obliviously public with criticism or affection or other private “family stuff.” Or forget the adolescent piece altogether. Isn’t it respectful of any human being to consider his/her feelings in an interaction, especially when it’s happening in public and could be hard to erase?
* Pew had a lot of other findings too: e.g., the study’s lead author, Mary Madden, said they were struck by “the degree to which concerns about advertisers’ data collection outweighed other concerns, such as interaction with strangers online. Parents of younger teens (ages 12-13) are more sensitive to the issue of advertiser tracking.”
* “Does tracking our kids’ every move make them safer?”
* “Peering thoughtfully into this window into our kids lives”
* “81% of teens use privacy settings”