February 14th, 2008 / 4 Comments
I am very proud to have Vanessa Van Petten author today’s post.
Vanessa is an incredibly mature young lady, the the teen author of the parenting book â€œYouâ€™re Grounded!â€ She writes a parenting blog from a teenâ€™s perspective to help parents understand what is actually going on in the mind of kidâ€™s today.
Vanessa and I are writing a series of articles about Social Networking for parents, this is the third article in our series.
Read the first two articles here:
I will be interviewing Vanessa in an upcoming podcast. Do you want to know more about how a teenager think on a particular issue or situation? Submit your questions here in the comments, or send me an email, and we will answer them in the podcast.
How to Handle Social Networking With Your Kids
By Vanessa Van Petten
We use the Internet for everything! My girlfriends and I track our periods online, we plan birthday parties, we talk about boys, and most of all, we maintain our social lives. Social networking sites play a huge role in teen and adolescent lives today. Therefore it is so important for parents to not only be informed about social networks, but also on how to talk to kids about staying safe while using them.
Speaking for the teens, here are our recommendations for parents who want to know what we are doing and how to be an informed guide:
1) Ask Lots of Questions
Your kids probably know a lot more about social networking than you do, so ask them straight out what they do online, if their friends have profiles and if they think it is a dangerous hobby. Instead of snooping or challenging Facebook or Webkinz, show interest! Ask them to help you set-up a profile on MySpace so you can find your old High School friends or new music (even if you just really want to see their profile) and ask them why they love using these sites. For teens that will not tell you anything, asking them for their help can make them feel knowledgeable and empowered and you get to see these sites through their eyes.
2) Donâ€™t Lecture, Have a Discussion
We always think we know everything about everything, so when you lecture us, we usually tune out. Instead of starting the social networking/Facebook profile conversation with your kid with your thoughts, ask them for theirs first. Have a back and forth discussion about what their friends are doing online and if you would do the same. A conversation is also much more informal and will help us open up to you about what we are really doing.
3) Respect their Privacy
Please do not try to hack into your childâ€™s profiles or accounts! If they were to catch you, it would ruin any chances of the opening up to you in the near future. Instead, tell them that you have the option of setting up a parental control service that will allow you to see everything they do on their computer, but, because you trust them, you are choosing not to do that. Or, if you do get this service, tell them you have it (give them the chance to behave) and you do not want to snoop, but you could if you find it necessary.
4) Do Your Research
Even though I do not recommend hacking into your childâ€™s accounts, this does not mean you cannot do some creative â€˜research.â€™ You can easily create accounts on social networking sites and see if your childâ€™s profile is visible to strangers, look at their friendâ€™s profiles and see the groups they are in.
5) Explain Cyber-Citizenship
After you do your research and possibly find some worry signs (profile is visible to strangers, controversial pictures or strange contacts) or not, it is good to have a discussion with your child. Explain the need to be responsible online, and even though they are typing from the privacy of their home, anyone, anywhere can see what you put online. It is also important to explain the immediacy of what you do online. If they rant against a friend on someoneâ€™s profile, it goes up instantly and everyone can see it.
Lastly, it is important to explain the idea of permanence online. Even though you might be able to take down videos or posts on your social networking profiles, someone else can always capture them and bring them up later when you least expect it. College admissions officers as well as future bosses are now looking at profiles. The image you present online can be your image for life!
The most important thing about talking to your kids about social networking is that you are talking to them! Keep the communication open and stay informed, and you will be able to keep your kids safe and happy online.
Dream big, work hard and you will get there,
Thank you, Vanessa, for the very wise advice for parents. Be sure to check out Vanessa’s site for great insights on other issues.
Photo by Mattkeefe