Kim Beair, MS, LPC, NCC & Dr. Kara Beair-Butler, DO
Inspiring Strategies for Success by Friends and Experts You Can Trust
There are positive and negative uses for social media, and this morning I saw one of the best I’ve come across in a long time. Strolling through Facebook posts, a friend inquired if she should approve her young daughter’s request for an Instagram account. As you can imagine, there were opinions flying from all directions.
The best answers and responses had to do with safety, authority, and parental networking. I threw in some developmental ideas, and we were on our way to great solutions to be shared with you today.
Overall, it was agreed that children and adolescents need to be monitored constantly on their social media accounts, and it is preferable to have a parent be the administrator of the accounts, based on the child’s age and other factors. One parent shared that while all safety issues were in place, her child’s friend suggested there be a secret profile, and off the student went behind her parents’ backs to accomplish that task. Thankfully, another watchdog parent tipped off the parent in the dark. A quick look at the child’s phone showed a whole new account. This is how inappropriate content and connections begin. Simply policing accounts from a computer does nothing to show what is on your child’s phone, or potentially another friend’s computer, or any other device that might be laying around.
This is where social and parental networking come in. Within every school, church and arts or athletic group, there are parents who provide a different angle or reach within the kid community. Some parents are online more, some parents get updated scoop from their own kids or other sources, and some parents are more connected with the personnel that interact with kids every day.
So how does this impact respect, privacy, and growing up? It impacts it greatly. Is it snooping? Maybe, maybe not – you be the judge. The fact is, we as parents and grandparents need to remember the world is different than it was for us. Years ago parents only had physical parameters to monitor in terms of predators and other dangers. These days, predators and other dangers come into your home virtually, track the locations of your loved ones, and have access into your lives in ways you may not be aware of.
The key to doing this right, is all in the way you set it up. First, let your kids know the ground rules for all their behavior, both in person and on the internet. If they want to use the devices and home (internet service) you are paying for, then they have to follow your rules. Write down the rules and consequences, and have them sign a “family contract” just to make it unforgettable. What to do if your child pays for their own devices? Remember that until they are 18, you still make the rules because you are legally responsible for them. Let them know the police can impound a car if it is misused, and that is what you will do as a parent if they misuse their electronic communication privileges.
Let your kids know you will be on all their accounts as an administrator. If you feel they are old enough to handle their own accounts, until they are 18, and/or pay for all their bills themselves (including college tuition), you will be a “friend” on their accounts and will be watching. Let them know you belong to an extensive network of people, and they will be watching as well. Let them know they are never to turn on any location services unless you are made aware, and that they should never post their whereabouts online without your permission. This includes not allowing posts until reviewed, so someone else doesn’t tag them revealing their whereabouts without your knowledge. There are other rules you as a family can make, so make them fit for you.
Kids should know right from the start this has nothing to do with your trust, or distrust of them. They should know it is not a commentary on their maturity, intelligence or intentions. Let them know that developmentally there are things that only come with biological age, and second guessing the minds of predators and con artists doesn’t generally come until later in life. Though your child may take every precaution imaginable, those actions do not lead to an understanding of the workings of a criminally deviant mind. Let them know even you may not be aware of everything you need to be aware of, but between all of you, you can teach each other. Kids have perspectives and knowledge of online activities parents may not have – this should truly be a family pursuit.
Though your kids know that you and your cyber stalker safety parent network is watching, never tell them where you got your information. If you catch them doing something against the rules, state what the infraction is, and the consequence. The original contract you made should state that when an infraction is uncovered, as a parent, you are not required to let your child know how you found out, and it won’t even be discussed. Then administer the consequences you have decided upon in the beginning. One other note, it is important to let kids of all ages know that the contract is subject to revision if necessary. This does not mean you change the contract daily. It means that a few reviews each year is advisable, and you will act accordingly.
If you structure this correctly, you will be modeling good online behavior from which your kids can learn. If you are getting pushback from your kids related to this, and you cannot seem to overcome it, enlist the help of a counselor. Many counselors will see you one or two times related to issues such as this. You can also contact a local church or behavioral health clinic or hospital and ask them to put on a workshop related to this topic that you and your kids can attend. Organizations are always looking for ways to reach out to the community, so make your request!
Dr. Kara Beair-Butler, DO, is a mom of multiples, and Chief Resident Physician in Internal Medicine/Pediatrics at the University Of Oklahoma School Of Community Medicine
DISCLAIMER: The information presented in this email or blog and any related links is provided for educational, informational, and entertainment purposes only. You must never consider any of the information presented here as a substitute for consulting with your physician or health care provider for any medical/mental health conditions or concerns. Any information presented here is general information, is not medical advice, nor is it intended as advice for your personal situation. Please consult with your physician or health care provider if you have concerns about your health or suspect that you might have a problem.