September 2, 2016
Keeping Connected in the Age of Oversharing
Educating Your Family on Social Media Best Use Practices
Many parents have noticed that kids today are growing up with some very different sensibilities from their own about what counts as oversharing online. And because kids tend to think that they know everything about the Internet while their parents are technology neanderthals, it can be very difficult to convince your kids that there really is such a thing as oversharing!
Of course, you don’t want to wait until something goes wrong to take action to prevent your kids from oversharing. But by the same token, extreme action isn’t the right answer either. It’s important that kids be allowed to use social media when they are old enough so that they don’t feel cut off from a normal social experience within their circle. After all, social media can be a great tool for keeping in touch with people, finding friends and family long lost, and keeping up to date on the latest news in your circle. Many young people also now use social media to arrange events and parties, so kids may end up feeling quite left out if they are cut off completely from social media.
So how do you strike a balance between keeping your kids safe and allowing them their online freedom? Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to take action before your kids make an oversharing mistake.
- Make them aware of the consequences. There have been many cases in the news of teens who faced serious problems as a result of oversharing. In one particular case, teen Jessica Logan sent nude photos of herself to a boyfriend who later distributed and posted the photos in school. Logan ended up committing suicide as a result of the social embarrassment she suffered. While of course you don’t want to frighten your kids with extreme cases, it’s very important that kids understand that anything they post online is in no way private. Other people can use those photos or posts in damaging or even illegal ways.
- Teens can get in legal trouble for sharing or accepting anything overly explicit. Emailing, texting, or posting a nude or suggestive photo counts as distribution of child pornography, even if the teen is sending a picture of him or herself! Depending on your state, the police can take legal action against teens for distributing child pornography. It can lead to suspension, expulsion, mandatory counseling, and even juvenile detention.
- You may want to follow or friend your kids on social media, though some parents prefer not to shadow their kids in that way. Further, there are lots of ways that kids can still hide things from their parents even when they have connected on social media.
- Depending on your personal parenting beliefs and preferences, you may want to consider installing a parental monitor on your home WiFi. A system like Rated 4 Kids allows parents to keep an eye on how their kids are spending their time online and to place limits on any websites or apps as they see fit. For example, after seeing the system’s report on the amount of time your teen is spending on Facebook, you can place hour limitations for Facebook on his phone, tablet, and computer without affecting the access of any other household members. You could have it block access during homework or meal time and after bedtime, or you could simply use the system to make you aware of any social media overuse as it occurs.
- Make sure you’re setting a good example yourself! For parents who aren’t really aware of just how big the Internet really is and how easily things you post can get out of your immediate social circle, it can seem perfectly okay to post things about your life and photos of your family members. You should always keep in mind that you often post without really having the permission of others to do so. It’s always a good move to be judicious with anything you chose to post. If you think it could embarrass someone, it’s better not to post. If you are afraid it could be used out of context or used to embarrass someone, it’s better not to post. In fact, according to Today.com, kids are more worried about their parents oversharing about them than they are about their own oversharing!