6 Tips for Parents Inundated by Social Media
Every morning I start my day reading the headlines. To read about parents coping with social media as the lead on CNN made me very sad, particularly during this holiday season. I have always blamed the PR industry for building up this category to the level it is. I discussed this often with my team (I had one of the largest tech PR firms in Colorado at one time). I felt it was a dangerous medium because of the difficulty in controlling it and my concerns have proven right. Unfortunately, it is now a part of our lives but it doesn’t have to run it. Having raised a daughter during the early days of social media I am sharing my tips for managing it.
1. Make certain your child understands that phones are for safety, not for chatting with friends.
When we first got our daughter a phone in 6th grade, we set down rules for its use. (I was always big about having her sign contracts to demonstrate the importance of an issue.) She was skating down in Denver and she often rode down the mountain with other skaters’ families. We wanted a way to get to her in case something happened. You have to be tough about devices. Let them take it to school but when they return home take the phone. And never let them sleep with it in their room. This avoids late-night texting where the real drama occurs. Plus it’s not healthy as cell towers do affect developing brains. Trust me, I’ve done significant research on this.
2. Tell your child computers are for school work. The rules for cell phones should apply to computers. Their purpose is for school work. Keep the computer in a room you frequent. My daughter used a computer in a space just off the family room. Then we knew she was doing her homework and not messing around with friends. Again, limit time for use when it's not related to school. This is particularly true for boys and gaming. Males are programmed for violence because they are typically the ones responsible for hunting and gathering. This is part of our original animal brain. Violent games are activating that part of the brain. And, yes, it is addicting.
3. Talk to your child every day about what is going on with friends. Kids start closing off in junior high. And as we know it's often because they are doing something they shouldn’t. So, you have to ask the tough questions. You need to be a parent and not their friend. Find out if there have been fights and, particularly if your child is being pushed out of groups. You don’t want them to be a loner as this can lead to self-harm or harming others.
4. Know if your child is being bullied online. Online bullying is the norm now. And you need to put a stop to it whether your child is the culprit or victim as this will lead to mental health problems. There is nothing worse than being the kid everyone talks about. I know from personal experience. Make your child talk to you. Ask questions. They need to know they can’t hide things from you. And be their biggest champion. Confront the parents and the other kids involved. Deal with it one on one because schools have way too much going on right now. But if a kid won’t stop and the parent won’t take charge then go to the school. Because that child is in danger.
5. Get on the same page with your spouse or ex. Kids love to pit parents against each other. It’s that first real feeling of power. My daughter was quite successful at it. But the fault was mine and my husband. We did not agree and it created years of anguish that we are still working through.
6. Write your senator, state, and local representatives and demand FCC control over social media The social media companies, particularly Facebook, have stated they are platforms. That’s wrong. Yes, they have a platform. All large software companies have a platform but these are media companies and they must be managed the same way we used to manage TV companies. The FCC must be strengthened again with tough oversite and without lawyers from Verizon running them. Any company engaging in social media must fall under their jurisdiction. This is exactly what government is for. We can no longer allow Wall Street to raise our children. Take action now.