I’ve had several lengthy talks with friends lately about social media. Our kids are getting to the age where they are now using social media or will be soon, so parents are starting to consider how they need to be involved. I have somehow earned myself a reputation for being social media savvy among my peers so people like to ask my opinion about this subject (and I love to talk about it). I’m more of the opinion that I just spend entirely too much time in front of a computer screen and I have a deep and abiding love for techie gadgets, but that’s a topic for another day.
I find that most of these conversations are about how to keep our kids safe online, how to protect them from seeing things they shouldn’t see, monitoring their activity, how to keep them from posting stupid stuff that could affect their ability to get a job later in life, etc., etc., etcetera. And that’s all good stuff to think about and discuss. It truly is.
But I think there’s something else that most parents fail to talk about or consider. Our kids are not the only ones building their digital footprint. In fact, parents of little ones right now, today, have probably been hard at work on that child’s digital footprint since the day they were born, even if they never realized it or intended to.
Social media is changing the way we communicate and the way we are perceived, both positively and negatively. Every time you post a photo, or update your status, you are contributing to your own digital footprint and personal brand.Amy Jo Martin
I think it’s a beautiful and wonderful thing that we can share the lives of our children with our family and friends. I love reading funny little things kids say and would be sad if they didn’t fill my feed. Because my life needs cute kid quotes and hysterical cat videos to balance out the political tirades and social agendas. In fact, my friend Kayla Aimee has a hashtag to document all of the hysterical things her little four year old girl says and it’s one of my favorite hashtags to follow ever…#StuffScarletteSays.
But one day our kids won’t be four anymore. One day they’ll be trying to get their first job. Or they’ll get asked out on a date. Or they’ll be applying to a college. And then that digital footprint, both the things they have shared in the ever-so-NOT-private social media world and the things we have shared about them will show up.
I always want to have a good relationship with my children. They are now 14 and 11 so they are conscious of social media and some of its implications. We are talking about this now. And often.
This thing that I do on social media? The interactions, the family selfies, the #parentingconfessions… Any time I mention their names, it becomes part of their digital footprint. And if you are friends with me or follow me, you’ll know that I’ve always been pretty careful about that. But it only takes one little thread to connect them to me. So I have to assume that when my son is given the privilege of social media, he, just like my daughter, will become part of my digital footprint.
I don’t want that connection to be a cause for our relationship to crumble. I don’t want there to be some video of full frontal nudity of my toddler streaking through the living room to be the thing that breaks my hard-won relationship of trust with my teen, just because it got me a few laughs and a bunch of likes or I was “just keepin’ it real.”
I don’t want my kids to be mortified to be around my friends because they discovered I went on a tirade about how moody and gross and angsty and generally unpleasant they are or I shared their personal testimony online without their consent, or any other number of things. I want to respect their privacy, even before they know to ask me to do that.
If we want our children to learn to have appropriate boundaries, we need to model them. Just like we teach them to say please and thank you and to speak up for themselves by modeling those behaviors, we need to model appropriate behavior on social media.
We need to protect our children and remember that one day our kids might troll our timelines. It’s already happened to me.
What will they see?
I for one don’t want that to be a bad thing. I want that social connection to be a way to celebrate them and their life, not humiliate or distance them at an age where it seems to be the thing to walk around with a giant chunk missing out of their shoulder . Because DUDE. Kids are mean. Parents are mean. Everybody’s mean. At least when you’re a teen.One day our kids will troll our newsfeeds. What will they see? #socialmediaClick To Tweet
I for one am always in need of a win with my children. So I’m working hard to protect that connection and make this a win for both of us.