I recently had the pleasure to speak with the parents association at my sons school about the connected society our children are growing up in and what all of this means. The topic has come to be a hot one with stories like Teen Twits Gone Wild where teenagers were sending inappropriate photos from teen parties to a tweeter that was maintaining a twitter account exposing the crazy things these kids were doing at high school parties. This naturally created a public outcry that was directed in many directions including the schools these children attend, the person running the twitter account to the parents.
I would like to share the presentation that I gave to the parents at my sons school as well as explain some of the points that I raise.
Why are kids so connected?
Because they can be. It is so easy to create accounts on social networks and many children are doing so without their parents knowledge.
FOMO – fear of missing out! What is happening on social networks often becomes part of the face to face discussion our kids are having during their school day. It’s only natural that they want to become a part of the online discussion.
Social Credibility – much of the outrageous content kids are posting on social are posted to gain likes, shares, comments and other reactions that seem to make the posts popular or credible.
What’s the risk to our children? (there is some risk to parents as well)
Regardless of privacy settings, what is posted digitally can be spread to a wider audience very quickly and easily. Decisions are being made about our kids, us as adults as well, based on what can be seen through online behaviors. There are many cases of college scholarship offers being retracted due to high school students actions online.
Are you willing to allow your children to remain unfiltered while online knowing that these downstream risks exist? Perhaps you are, but it is a question worth answering for yourself.
What can be done?
I have two sons and my first rule for them to participate on social networks is that their first two connections will be me and their mother. Now I realize that is easy for me to say as I am somewhat active in many social networks, but the risk of unmonitored social behavior is too great for all parents not to get themselves at least aware of what their children are doing online. I bet that five years ago many of us couldn’t have imagined how attached we were going to become to our mobile phones and things like texting! We have adapted quickly and many of us are lost without our mobile phones! Things that we find useful have a way of becoming important to us.
I would urge any parent to at the very least take the needed steps to become familiar with what their children are doing on their smart phones and computers. If you can find the time to become acclimated with the social channels they are using that would be best. Be sure to set a good digital example for your children!
This is the age we live in and discovering effective/useful ways to express ourselves has never been more available or more important!