Eileen Wacker is the award-winning author of the Fujimini Adventure Series. As a recognized thought leader and CEO of ONCEKids she has contributed to Fox News, Huffington Post and Resident NY Magazine. Continuing her enthusiasm for education she has led reading programs throughout the world. Eileen has written the following 3-part series on Social Media and Connecting with Your Child:
Social Networking is the most important communication channel among our teens and tweens. If you are not connected to their world, it is hard to effectively parent them. Social media trends are accelerating and exploding and their usage is directly correlated to how our tweens and teens feel about themselves and act towards others.
Let’s face it, we are raising ‘the ithumb generation’ and they are creating norms faster than I can type a text. I have four children aged 14, 14, 10 and 9 years-old and they all have electronic devices. Each has a strong desire to join and download various social media apps and services. My husband and I constantly wrestle with how we can be good parents in the face of this onslaught. We are done denying if we disallow a phone or facebook (fb) account, we are in touch with what is going on, or, we are effectively protecting our children. I instead have added ‘social media trend spotter’ to my mom job description.
As a mom, I already have a hard time keeping up with my children and their busy schedules. Trying to raise great kids is exhausting. I am stressed and tired and the idea of one more giant issue to address is daunting. But becoming social media savvy has actually simplified my life. If I can guide and influence my children’s way of using social media, I can directly impact three things related to them: safety, common sense and good manners associated with their use. Here are some things I’ve discovered.
Unfortunately, an electronic device is the signature of your child. It is not as simple as – if he/she has the iphone 5, he/she is spoiled and/or indulged. It is much more complicated. Our 9 year-old got an iphone 4s for Christmas. We used to silently look down upon a parent who gave their 9 year-old child a phone. Now, I work and my kids are constantly in motion and I need them to have phones. So my area of concern is not when any more, it is how my kids are using the electronic devices. And social networking is the big kahuna of how.
One of my children is on facebook (fb) and all four are on Instagram. Several are on snapchat and other add-ons to Instagram. They are not on twitter and have no desire to be. I have a rule that they must accept me as a follower and I need to know their usernames and passwords. Seems like common sense but I have to go further. There is a trend in every playground. The kids are collecting ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ and ‘friends’. Seems innocent but we need to watch. There are apps to see who ‘unfollows’ or ‘unfriends’ and this is creating drama on the playground. The kids are using these to bully others or make a child feel isolated or as if he/she doesn’t have enough friends. Kids are gaining status now by the number of ‘friends’, ‘followers’, and ‘likes’ they have. It is a form of competition and a new barometer of being popular.
Read more of Eileen Wacker’s thoughts on Social Media and Connecting with Your Child Part 2.