It Started With My Skate Shop
A few years ago, around 2005, MySpace was at one of it’s most optimally active times with teenagers. I had opened up a local skateboard shop and teens were in there hanging out all day, checking their MySpace pages, talking about MySpace, etc…I had actually avoided MySpace for a year or so after that and even then now I don’t use it that much. One thing I did get exposure to since I wasn’t their parents and had the street cred as a funny tattooed skate shop owner guy that listened to all their problems (and let them complain about the world), was an unfiltered view into what these kids were really thinking about and doing on MySpace. I unfortunately also got a glimpse into how much their parents didn’t know about it, and more sadly, how much their parents didn’t communicate with them about what they were doing on there. They weren’t engaging them about something that was consuming 60% of their teenager’s week socially. As I started my own foray into Social Media for business and personal reasons, I realized that there’s this whole other social element that will be a defacto standard in less than a couple years for all teenagers and kids – having a ‘profile’ somewhere…anywhere..that is accessible to their friends and family, but also accessible to some of the wackos that roam the earth. At the time I owned the shop, my kids weren’t old enough to get started on MySpace so I kind of steered them away from Social sites as long as I could so I could spend more time on the sites to figure out the risks as well as the benefits (there are lots of cool reasons to be on these sites for adults and kids).
NOTE TO PARENTS: Just because you don’t understand or know about something does NOT make it bad for your child. If you see that it’s popular and it’s a trend, get involved as soon as possible. Our culture STILL supports too much reactive parenting in my opinion and that is what drives a huge wedge in between us and our teens….but that’s another blog post.
We already know about online predators. We know about hackers stealing personal information from websites and your home computer. With social media it’s more complex and nebulous because predators and assholes in general know how to create multiple accounts and very subtly get connected with people that don’t know them. They’re smart, bored and insane to an extent. Social sites have continued to put some controls in place for administering your accounts but it will always be a battle that we need to be proactive about. Twitter, Facebook and MySpace are no exception and STILL have major issues with predators, spammers, stalkers and hackers setting up multiple impostor accounts, using some racy female profile photo so that they can request to add your teenage son as a friend…and out of hormones and curiosity, your teen might accept it…unless you get engaged and educate them on the etiquette and red flags….which I’m getting to……
Whether you like it or not. These current generations are being raised in the information age and setting up an account on Facebook/MySpace is one of the first things they’re gonna want to do to look cool and will probably be pressured to do in jr. high and beyond. Social sites are a great thing for kids. They’re a creative expressive place for them to stay in touch with their friends all over the world and with relatives that don’t live close by. More importantly, for us parents, is that if we embrace it, we can be ‘friends’ with them online, stay out of their business, but still be able monitor/observe their interactions with their friends, see who else they are friends with, etc.
Just remember that your pre-teens/teens need their space and time to have their own social lives without mom and dad interfering all the time, getting all up in their biz. Another cool thing is that I’ve added my son’s friend’s parents to my list and we can all kind of keep tabs together forming a big protective space for our kids to all be teenagers and do what they do.
In a nutshell, if you aren’t privy to social media/sites, your kids probably already are and if they are not legal adults yet, get involved and talk to them about it. Embrace it and get informed and watch what is going on. They (and you) will benefit from it later. Just don’t micromanage them and post crap on their Facebook wall all the time. They need their own space.
Set up some basic rules for them online about what’s appropriate online and what isn’t. Because teens typically don’t realize the entire world is watching them while they’re online B.S.’ing with their friends, we need to remind them to avoid and/or be careful about publicly joking about topics like sex, religion, race, sexual preference, murder, suicide, etc.
In your mind you might be like, “What??? My children don’t do that! They’re only in Junior High!” I’m telling you all right now that public or private school, healthy or unhealthy home life, they hear about it, sometimes participate in those discussions, and are surrounded by those conversations and that kind of humor every day at school.
Denial is a parents’ worst enemy….and denying THAT is even worse.
At the End of the Day
Your kids don’t run the show online. You do…but you can do it while letting them enjoy the information and all the social stuff that comes with it.
I’m sure my teens are cringing, reading this now and rolling their eyes. I’m almost positive I’ll get crap for it later.
Here’s a good link (there’s tons’ more just Google stuff) for Teens and High Tech: