On October 18th, Russ Becker and I hosted the 8th grade parent coffee. We discussed a variety of topics, but one that always leads to great conversations and sharing of concerns and ideas is Social Media. The main concerns were how to monitor it, when to monitor it and when to step in and get involved. It's easy to understand why there is confusion and uncertainty, my quick google search of “How much should I monitor my child’s social media” came up with millions of articles and after reading 7 articles, it is clear that even the experts have very different opinions on how to best monitor and protect your child while he/she is online. Some experts say “Have discussions but there is no need to monitor” while others advocate “using technology to monitor their technology use” (apps such as MamaBear send alerts when their kids send or receive friend requests, use certain words, or are tagged in photos. They also provide GPS tracking). The advice is dizzying and the pace of technology makes it difficult for parents to keep up with the ever evolving app choices. My best advice to to find a middle of the road approach. These are my tips for navigating the digital world with your adolescent
- It should be understood that iPads/phones/computers are owned by the parent and therefore not the child’s personal belonging. They can be taken away as a consequence for poor choices on technology.
- Regular communication about expectations and rules must occur so that both parent and child know the boundaries and also consequences for infractions. The conversations should center around safety and making responsible choices.
- There is no way to monitor everything your child is doing online. Some experts believe over monitoring will lead children to become more sneaky and secretive online. However, spot checking should be expected. Children should know that whatever they type/send/post can be recaptured and resent to others and there is no expectation of privacy online. You are spot checking not to invade their privacy but instead to keep them safe and ensure they are being responsible digital citizens.
- As children age from “tween to teen” monitoring (especially of text messages) can decrease if a child has shown they are mature and capable of balancing online activities and real life expectations (homework, extracurriculars etc). Caroline Knorr of Common Sense Media recommends “parent should discuss boundaries and appropriate online behavior with their children and to ‘parent around the device’ by ‘doling out features sparingly’ when the phone is new. She suggests opening up more features as the child demonstrates the ability to ‘follow the rules and meet expectations and understand consequences.’”
- Set the expectation that if your child is on a social media site (Instagram, snapchat, Facebook, twitter) they must friend/allow you to follow them. Again, nothing posted online is private and therefore if they are posting something publicly they can expect their parents to see it.
- Set device free times in your home. Some families choose to have technology free hours at dinner, in the car or after 9pm. Only allow cell phone usage at certain hours in the evening or after homework has been completed. If you have teens of driving age, the most important rule to enforce is that under no circumstances should cell phones ever be used while driving. Phones should be kept off so incoming text sounds aren’t a distraction or should be kept in the glove compartment, out of reach