Parent Seminar – Social Media
by John M. and Tiffany Y.
Our second parent seminar, “How can we support our kids to make healthy choices with social media?” was held on November 29. As with our first seminar, we had an engaging discussion and learned a lot from one another. We look forward to continuing this series and to more stimulating discussions.
Some of the questions that we raised in the social media seminar included:
- Essential Question: How can we support our kids to make healthy choices with social media?
- What are the pros and cons of allowing your kids to have accounts such as Instagram, Snapchat, etc.?
- How do you monitor cell phone use? (searching through history, etc)
- Do you engage your kids in making decisions and setting limits? Do you impose those limits? Where is the line?
- How can we empower our kids to recognize the importance of making those decisions?
- Do you have any resources that you can suggest for monitoring screen time? Apps?
Here are some highlights and ideas that were shared from our discussion that evening:
Extended commentary from middle school parent Craig Thrasher (reprinted with his permission):
I discovered my need for more engagement with my son about the importance of using social media to enhance actual face-to-face relationships, not replace or lessen them. Also, I see the benefit of reinforcing with him that it is critical to communicate with others online just as he would interact with them in face-to-face conversations. I also will better guide my son not to lose sight of the fact that the same boundaries that apply to face-to-face conversations also apply to online (and text) conversations. I also learned of the need to make more clear to my son the potential repercussions, including those that may be long lasting, from making bad choices with online and text conversations.
Always make sure that alternatives to online options are ready, available and enjoyable. The need to better reinforce reading as a healthy escape from my son’s daily realities and online activities. Not to simply ask my son to take a break from electronics but to guide him to other alternative and enjoyable choices. Concerning social media, helping my son to realize social media should be used as a tool to enhance personal interface, not diminish it.
The seminar was indeed helpful. Working and talking with other parents in our school community is always helpful. Agree, disagree or while learning something new, dialogue with others about how they guide their children, in a safe environment, is a great thing.
One parent suggested that we engage the students in direct conversations about their ideas regarding the pros and cons of social media much as we were doing with parents. John followed this suggestion, holding an 8th grade Advisory talking circle, in which each 8th grader was asked to comment on the pros and cons from their perspective.
- Pros: Many students talked about connecting easily and efficiently with other students, and that it increases their ability to feel that they are part of a peer community. They are able to express themselves creatively with photography, videos, and humor, in ways that might not be possible otherwise, and to learn about tips and tools available to enhance their creative interests.
- Cons: Many students commented upon the dangers of online predators and the growing prevalence of insidious marketing strategies, such as clickbait that will bring additional followers, opportunities to win iPhones, etc. It was striking to me that the students had this general awareness, but that it was somewhat limited to their immediate age-appropriate interests. I used this as an opportunity to discuss the fact that their online presence will be part of their resumes later in life, and that anything posted even now can be potentially used as a reference tool later by prospective employers as a means of drawing conclusions about their online character and behavior. Moreover, we discussed the fact that as they become increasingly interested in world events, the prevalence of inaccurate, unvetted, and even false or imaginary news accounts (regardless of one’s political views) will become increasingly sophisticated. Their awareness now of attempts to gain their attention online is a good thing, as it will–hopefully–transfer over into a greater awareness, healthy skepticism, and ability to discern the accuracy of information later in life.
Additional strategies recommended by seminar participants (some strategies may contradict one another):
- Have a ready-to-use set of alternatives to offer:
- ”Boredom Box” – pick an activity out of a boredom box (a variety of non-electronic activities are written down on strips of paper and can be drawn out of the box as needed)
- Family reading time — everyone picks up a book and reads!
- Electronics only in common living area
- Have a “Cell Jail”, such as a bowl near front door that family members place phones in upon arrival
- Restrict past a selected hour (such as dinner time) or no phone in bedroom / bathroom
- Monitor their web histories
- Engage in regular, honest, conversations with your children about the pros and cons of social media
- Share your ideas and strategies with other parents
- Work together on solutions, guidelines and consequences
- Very strong, clear boundaries
- Be deliberate in what you post as a parent and how you talk on social media – model good decision-making
- Make a point to check your child’s privacy settings on each social network periodically
CommonSenseMedia.org (see especially posters that ask kids to consider the potential consequences of items that they post).
Book: Nancy Sales, American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers (New York: Knopf, 2016).