Can we teach our kids how to “share” in the social media sandbox?


More than half of teens go online several times a day. Some of us could argue that our kids never go “offline” as approximately ¾ of American teens say they have access to a smartphone. Not surprisingly 71% of teens use more than one social network site, defining teens as kids between 13-17 years old. The most popular social media platforms used by teens? Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. None of these statistics are surprising. Kids willingly use and post information about themselves on social media. Then why does it matter if parents post about their kids on social media? And why are kids not happy about the fact that the adults in their lives feel as they can post anything they choose about them?

So off I went to do one of my informal, unscientific and most likely biased polls with a sample group of guinea pigs, my kid’s friends, my kid’s, willing subject matter experts…..yep – that one….

There is a clear tension between kids feeling comfortable with posting information about themselves and adults deciding what information to post about kids. And what I find most interesting is that what kids are really saying is that they want to control their privacy – maybe not in those words but that certainly is the message. It is clear how they feel between what they decide to post versus someone else deciding. And as I have conversations with kids of different ages, they are aware that, for the most part, they are not comfortable making these decisions on their own and arbitrarily. They are looking for some form of adult guidance on being responsible at least at the outset of their social media experience. Really showing a deeper insight into their understanding of the perils of social media and internet use and the importance of their privacy.

So what can adults do to help their kids? For starters, we can make sure we teach them responsible digital citizenship. They need to understand the consequences of posting information that while not all bad, some information could be embarrassing down the road. Like pictures of me in my 80’s outfits including the fantastic hairstyles of the moment, but I digress……we need to be able to teach our children what is a good app to use, which ones to avoid, and the appropriate time to post information about themselves. The more I talk to my own kids the clearer it is. Kids are growing with technology, no doubt about it, they are also growing with an increased awareness of privacy. So how do we help them navigate this social media sandbox? For starters we need to give them the decision making power of the information we disclose about them. They are a lot more comfortable when they can decide what is disclosed about them, so why not honor that?

However, parents face many challenges when trying to help their kids navigate social media platforms and apps. There are many articles about the “best apps” or the “most popular social media platforms” but little information on what apps / social media protects their privacy and data. Further, there is very little information in a format that kids can understand and relate to.  So while articles like this one from EdSurge are great for deciding whether an app is useful or not, it doesn’t provide insight into the apps privacy policies. And that matters, because apps are downloaded, most likely kids provide information about themselves, and they need to understand the ramifications of providing this information.

So as our kids continue to play in the social media sandbox, we need to help them learn how to “share” or not….depending on what they want to say about themselves.




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