Let’s talk about social media. For us parents, it's a hot topic. We wonder, “Should I let my kids engage in social media? When? Is it safe? What if they see something they shouldn’t? What if they get addicted? What rules do I need to set?” The uncertainties go on and on.
That’s because we are the first generation of digital moms who need to figure this out. We can’t ignore it. Social media and online relating are here to stay. If we do our job properly, our kids will one day leave our care and make decisions on their own. And, most likely, one of those decisions will be “I will use social media”.
So, you’ve got a responsibility now. It is up to you to teach your children healthy social media habits while they are in your care. Just like you need to let them experience money so that they grow up to be fiscally responsible, you need to let them experience social media so that they grow up to be digitally responsible. [Related Post: 5 Tips for Healthy Tech Habits in Your Famiy]
Now (ready for some personal conviction?) the first step to teaching your children is to examine your own habits to decide if you are setting a good example. I learned this the hard way. Early on in my Facebook “life”, my (then) 11-year-old daughter looked at me and said, “Mommy, when I wake up in the morning, I always see you on Facebook. Are you spending any time with God in the mornings?” Ouch! I realized then (and many times since) that I needed to address my habits and identify social media’s place in my life.
What I Teach My Kids About Social Media
I have since set some personal rules about social media. I'm proactively teaching these boundaries to my children in hopes that they will develop healthy habits.
- I narrow my social media channels. I don’t need to use every social media platform. I need to find the ones where my “real” friends are and stick with those. For me, that’s Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Periscope.
- I relate back when someone interacts with me. If they comment, I “like” or “comment” back. If they react to my posts often, I’ll react to theirs. If they tag me in a post or picture, I comment. It’s the same as if someone waved to me on the street or said “Hi!”. I would say “Hi” back…common courtesy that should be applied to online interaction as well.
- I only post positive things. You know, what Thumper said in Bambi, “”If you can't say something nice… don't say nothing at all.” That’s a standard we live by in our home, so I need to “speak” the same way online.
- I ask permission before I post anything about someone else. I don’t share stories about my kids without asking their permission. That’s the same courtesy I would want in return.
- I don’t make my feed “all about me”. I share accomplishments to encourage and inspire others. I brag on my kids to build them up. I share cute stories because they bring joy to others. But, I try hard not to “toot my own horn”. And no selfies, unless I have a good “not about me” comment to go with it.
- I use discernment about sharing my location, either with words or with images. It's not that I live in fear, but I want to set an example of prudence. Safety is never a bad thing.
- I don’t friend everyone. I only accept friend requests from people who I've interacted with face-to-face (or voice-to-voice) within the past year. Or they played a significant role in my life at some point. Also, I don’t friend/follow men unless they are mutual friends with my husband.
- I turn off notifications if a “friend” is spammy or posts things I don’t like seeing. I don’t unfriend the person, but I don’t clog up my feed with their posts.
- I unfriend someone who posts inappropriate things. My gauge is “Would I want my kids seeing this?” No? Goodbye, click.
I’m sharing this to get you thinking, my friend. Even if your kids are too young to be on social media, they are forming habits just by watching you. I encourage you to examine your social media habits and determine “Are these the same habits I want my kids to have? What am I teaching my kids about social media?” [Related Post: A Mom's Greatest Struggle in this Tech-Driven World]
What are your social media habits? Are they ones you want your kids imitating? Let's chat about it.