Thursday, April 5, 2018

Navigating Social Media as a Parent





E-parenting is not an easy task. In March of 2017 android users had the opportunity to choose from
2.8 million apps,  with the Apple app store coming in at a close second by offering  2.2 million apps to users (https://www.statista.com/statistics/.../number-of-apps-available-in-leading-app-stores/). 

How on earth can a parent manage what is out there and what is safe for their children? Recently 
I became aware of an article that warns parents of dangers associated with the apps Musical.ly and 
Amino. The concepts of each of these apps seem like a fun way to connect but with all things, 
deviant behavior can happen on these type of sites/apps. Spend a few minutes digging into these apps 
and you can find a plethora of things you wouldn't want your child to see or take part of...and for that
matter- yourself. We live in a world where the access to technology is virtually ubiquitous. This means 
that access to information, images, and relationships that can be both uplifting and demoralizing is 
at our fingertips as well. 


For adults, our frontal lobs are developed. There is an overriding belief that we have the ability to use 
self-control to make wise choices in where we navigate to consume information, personalities we 
choose to interact with, and images we choose to see. I believe we see proof in this world that it isn't 
as easy to balance as some think. For our children, curiosity is their strong-suit, not self-control and we, 
as adults, need to help them find their balance and develop their self-control. 


Recently I attended an e-parenting workshop at a local school here in Chattanooga and the speaker 
shared a great social media rating guide:

This can be found at www.safesmartsocial.com . I found the ranking of green, yellow, and red apps 
very helpful. The green apps are made by companies that are working to look at for underage users. 
If, heaven forbid, you had an issue on an app with your child that caused alarm these companies 
are willing to work with parents to get to the issue resolved. The yellow apps may or may not be 
willing to do the same thing. And the red apps will not be helpful and serve as potential safety 
concerns for your children. 

As you can see, the Amino Apps aren't even listed on here because that is the nature of the beast-ever 
changing and ever popular. If you still are only watching your child's Facebook usage, you are being
duped into thinking you are a vigilant parent! Did you know that many of today's young users have an
Instagram account AND a Finsta account? It might be using the app Finsta or it might be another 
Instagram account that they think isn't easily traced back to them. The truth of the matter is, teens 
want a virtual place they can be themselves but they know about the long reaching impact of their
digital footprint. A Finsta account or fake Insta gives them this sense of anonymity to share their "real
side" with the world. Want to know if your child has one? See who they are following on their 
Instagram account or look at the bio in their Instagram and see if it says something about where 
you can find their Finsta (or connect via snapchat, etc). 


So what do you do as a parent? Are you hands on to the point that your child isn't allowed any access 
to the chosen mode of communication in their world? Are you hands off and you have no idea what
they are doing and frankly don't care? Or are you trying to walk the line between enough and too 
much?


Here are a few resources that might help you in this navigation:

-Either be in control of what apps your child downloads on their devices or get notifications 
when your child your child downloads a new app. Use websites like www.safesmartsocial.com or www.commonsensemedia.org to make app decisions on what you think is best for your own
family.
-Follow your kids on social media. Look at their history. Have conversations that are meaningful
about positive and negative internet presence.
- Know that even the most innocent of concepts can be corrupted. Don't assume your child is
looking at sick skateboarding tricks all day long on Youtube. If you don't let them have free
- Consider something like Disney Circle (https://meetcircle.com/) or Our Pact (https://ourpact.com/)
- Be the parent. Don't be afraid to say no. Your child does not have to have access to ALL the social
media apps. And remember that frontal lobe thing I was talking about, many apps say a person has
to be 13 years old. Follow that, but also consider that 13 might be too young as well.
-Use the stepping stone method. When learning to drive, you have to be a certain age, you have to prove yourself worthy of being a lone driver, and if you fail miserably your license can be revoked.
Make a family plan for what that looks like regarding internet usage with your family. A family
contract isn't a bad idea.
-Research. Many apps of choice for teens are based out of foreign countries. Your rights as an
American citizen are null and void when you hit that "yes I agree with these rules" button. Keep that
in mind.

Lastly, don't allow the scariness of the internet to win. The awesomeness that today's world has in
connecting globally has never been available before. Empower your children to be good digital
citizens like you empower them to be good citizens. Show them examples of the power of social media for good and bad. Create opportunities for your children to showcase the positive. Model
the good and trend the positive!