I often talk about parents and their part in leading by example, both online and off. Children are very impressionable and will often mimic their parents’ habits—good and bad. Since online behavior has real world effects, parents must focus on demonstrating respectful digital citizenship to their children.
Parents used to just puzzle over their teens’ calculus homework; now parents have the added challenge of deciphering their teens’ new digital dialect. Parents need to familiarize themselves with social media so they are able to create a positive online example for their kids.
Here are three areas to focus on when it comes to positively influencing your t(w)eens.
1. Educate yourself: knowledge is power!
Stay informed and keep up-to-date: regularly follow articles on parenting and social media. Ask your friends what their kids are doing online. It’s beneficial to acquire different perspectives and a fuller understanding of how social media functions in your child’s world.
More knowledge builds confidence, helping you be less apprehensive when communicating with “expert” teens about social media. As a result, kids sense that their parent is a legitimate figure to look up to and model their online actions by.
2. More things in common means more things to chat about.
Communication is key to all parent-child relationships and social media commonalities can help.
Parents are gaining a wider presence on the Internet. Two-thirds of adults use social networks according to a Pew Internet study last year; 82% of parents under forty and 61% of those who are older are present on social media.
The data speaks for itself: more and more parents are integrating social networking into their lives. This commonality between parents and their children adds a dynamic to the relationship as well as a new topic of conversation.
Parents, create a dialogue about your online experience with your teens, whether it’s a cool feature you discovered on Facebook, or an interesting account you follow on Twitter.
3. Monitor your child’s social media, and remember they are watching you too.
Parents have the ability to influence their teens’ conduct by keeping tabs on their activity, but it’s a balancing act between your child perceiving you as supporting, versus untrusting.
Stay active on your social accounts so your child doesn’t view your surveillance as overbearing, but rather as a natural extension of your own activity. Kids will tend to see this more as a healthy interest in being a part of their lives both on and offline.
Perhaps the most crucial takeaway is to realize that raising an upstanding digital citizen doesn’t take a different set of principles than teaching honorable conduct offline.
You can be a social media role model at any age! Kids mentor kids, siblings mentor siblings, and most of all, teachers mentor students. Parents must lead by example—both online and off.
As a social media role model what is your number one concern about your child’s digital footprint and their cyber-life? If your child posted a questionable comment or photo, how do you handle social media concerns in your family? Please share with us.