Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Social Media Presentation Number 2,896 and What I Give Parents

This year has been among my busiest ever making presentations to parent groups about Social Media. There has of course always been a casual interest by most, and an intense interest by some. As an outside observer without kids for some of those years of making presentations (and an insider now), I think social media was seen as an afterthought. Kind of like I view toothbrushing with my toddler. Should I do a better job of making sure he gets to all of his teeth? Yes. However, instead I stress out about exactly how many minutes of screen time he has had a day and how much his overall IQ has diminished as a result. Is that nonsensical? Yes, probably. However, I just don't pay as much attention to tooth-brushing as I know I should. I think most parents have had that mindset about social media for the last decade.

This year, however, there has been some existential zeitgeist in American culture. Perhaps world-wide culture, if including the use of media in the Arab Spring. But, I will stick to what I know: social media in suburban culture among tweens and teens. What I know is that parents have awoken, as if from a dreamy stupor, and realized that they have no idea what is happening in their kids' social media lives. When I speak to other parents, there is no way I can give them control over what is happening. Instead, I am giving them the knowledge and the certainty that they do actually have the deciding vote. They do, like the 80s cartoon character He-man, have the power.

A great example is when I explain to parents that the cell phone, the iPad, the Kindle Fire are all MOBILE devices. That means they move. Don't spend hundreds of dollars a year on a fancy app or device that can automatically shut your kids' devices off at a certain time to make sure they are sleeping at night. You'd be surprised how many parents spend hours combing the Internet for solutions for the fact that Apple won't let any one app control any other app. The revolutionary idea I share with parents is that they can physically demand that a device be collected and stored in a set space every night at a certain time. The parent bought the device, the parent pays the bills, the parent is actually the owner of the device, not the child. The parent is completely within his or her own rights to collect the device. I would argue that it is their responsibility.

The other way that most parents have abdicated their rights (unwittingly) is forgetting the power of the group. A concerned and insistent group of parents can together decide that their kids will not use a given application or Web site. A great example is Snapchat. If you and the parents that you know were aware of the fact that the primary use of Snapchat is to send naked images that then "self-destruct"....but not really...you could decide not to allow your children to use it. If everyone decides it's not allowed for their kids then none of them can argue that "everyone can do it." The power banding together as a group of informed parents is limitless.

So, how do you become an informed parent? And stay that way? I cannot tell a lie, it's work. You must read the news. Some colleagues of mine have set up a wiki for parents called Digiparenting. This is a site with links to blogs, books, Web sites and more, all on the topic of raising digital kids. Common Sense Media is also a great resource. They post reviews of apps, movies, games and more. Finally, the very best resource is your child. Be a part of the conversation. Learn how to use Instagram. You might not find it very interesting, but your child does. Your very best source of information about what's going on is your child. If they trust you and you have a dialogue open about the topic, you're more likely to find out what's happening online. All of this is to say that although the parents have more power than they might know, to quote another superhero, "With great power comes great responsibility."

Image Source: http://images.fanpop.com/images/image_uploads/He-Man-Masters-of-the-Universe-he-man-604198_393_616.jpg

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