My children love hearing the stories of my childhood, including tales about answering machines and chatting with friends on a phone connected to a wall. Gasp!
Today, we live in a different world; social media means people, places and things are available at a swipe of a finger. For parents, it can feel overwhelming – scary, in fact – to juggle it all graciously and empower our children to do so as well.
Social media is not to be feared, but to be used with respect and knowledge. Take time to discuss guidelines for usage and safety with your child. Allow them to pinpoint the characteristics of their personality they want to represent. Ask, “What do you want to be known for?” and identify three to five key words that best represent them.
The famous adage “a picture is worth 1,000 words” couldn’t be truer. And more than ever, it’s important to teach our children to post carefully. Rather than posting pictures of what they are wearing or who they are with, encourage them to use social media for a deeper story. Encourage pictures of their lacrosse gear or the book they are reading, architecture they find inspiring or even a dinner they have prepared.
Talk to your child about respecting others. While it might seem unnecessary, it is best to get into a habit of asking permission before posting photos of other young people or even the parents of others.
Words are a powerful tool and especially powerful on any public platform. Unfortunately, when we’re sitting in the privacy of our homes, we can lose sight of the power of our words and how far they can travel. Teach your child the habit of thinking before speaking, face-to-face and digitally. If you wouldn’t say it in front of your grandma or a friend’s parents, don’t put it out there. Having a filter is truly a life skill.
The saying “birds of a feather flock together” is very true for posts. Not only will we be known for what we say, we will be known for the comments others leave. Parents should monitor those feeds to ensure that the conversations on your child’s pages best represent what he/she wants to be known for.
When was the last time you searched on your child’s name? Just try it. What comes up will show you what other people can access, too. Even if a Google search doesn’t show much, ensure that their accounts are private and use strong passwords.
By talking to your children about their reputation, taking an interest in how they are communicating it, and using the 3Ps, your child will be set-up for a lifetime of digital success. After all, it’s the future, our children’s digital future.
Mindy Lockard is a nationally recognized etiquette consultant and lifestyle expert. She writes at @TheGraciousGirl on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, or contact her via her website. Parenting Now! is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening families through parent support and education.