In the past week I have been bombarded by news articles, blogs, television, and stories from co-workers about the pervasiveness, dangers, and parenting issues surrounding social media. Headlines about the negative impact of social media are popping up, bullying videos are going viral, and children are facing serious consequences at school. However, when I search for educational materials or success stories to instruct and empower parents as they deal with the social media lives of their teens, there is little information to be found. I think one mother wrote it beautifully when she called the generation of parents who grew up without the Internet “pioneers” as they now parent in the “iEverything” age. There is incredible access at the fingertips of our youth but few roadmaps for parents to navigate the complicated world of social media.
Let’s start by discounting the myth that you will never be able to keep up with your kids as it relates to social media as well as the myth that there is nothing you can do about it. If you are a parent pioneering unchartered territory that feels intimidated by the Internet and you want to throw your hands up – you are NOT alone and you are NOT helpless. There is actually a lot that you can do to guide your children through the world of social media. Consequently, there is hope that our youth will learn how to manage technology in a safe and effective way with the help of their parents and teachers.
The best place for you to start is with awareness. Get on the Internet and do your homework. Find out what social media sites and apps are out there, check your child’s phone to see what he or she is accessing, read about the impact of social media issues such as cyberbullying and sexting, and begin talking to your kids about these issues on a daily basis. The dinner table is a great place to start having these social media conversations. Increase your knowledge about social media, and you will begin to feel empowered as a parent to help your children find a balance in the social media world that works for you and them.
For more information about what you can do to help your children have a healthy social media life, please stay tuned for upcoming seminars at Atlanta Counseling Center.