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Mom of Teens: Moms, teens and social media

Posted September 7, 2010

When I was growing up there was no such thing as social media. Now your teens can connect to the world via Facebook, Twitter, Formspring, Tumblr, Blogger, and a host of other social media apps. If they have the right kind of cell phone, they can have access “on the go.” Whew! What’s a parent to do with all of this connectivity?

I’m no expert and my methods are by no means the only way to handle this, but I’d like to share what I’ve done with my teenage daughters on three social media platforms.

Facebook: Both my daughters are on Facebook. I have some requirements I’ve instituted for their continued use of Facebook. First, I’m their friend on Facebook. That is not optional. We periodically sit down together and review their privacy settings. When one of my daughters updates their status, I receive a message on my cell phone with the update. This allows me to know, at a moment’s notice, when I’ll need to discuss what is appropriate to post and what is not. Sometimes I require that an update be removed. I may relax some of these requirements as they get older, but for now, these allow me to monitor and guide them as I see best.

Formspring: Formspring allows you to create surveys and questions that others can respond to either by name or anonymously. Only one of my daughters was enamored with Formspring. I was not. I do not like the idea of anonymous comments. My daughter was the recipient of some cruel and hurtful responses to her questions. This often spawned even meaner comments from her friends and sometimes my daughter, in an effort to defend my daughter. I’ve made her disable the account because I felt it opened her up to criticism and just plain meanness. Teens are often still searching for their identity and are swayed by “public opinion.” I did not feel Formspring was beneficial to her at all.

Tumblr: Tumblr is a blogging platform. Both my daughters use Tumbler. I try to make it a habit to read their Tumblr pages regularly and discuss what’s posted on it.

My best weapon is staying updated with what they are doing on social media and keeping lines of communication open. Set your boundaries and stick to them. Finally, enjoy being connected to your teen as they connect with others.

Marietta Taylor is the mom of two girls ages 15 and 14 and has been married for 17 years. The family moved from Chicago to Raleigh in 2003. The first few years were a wild ride and were the inspiration for her first book, "Surviving Unemployment Devotions To Go!" Read more about Mari on her blog and website. And find her here monthly on Go Ask Mom.
 

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  • Killian Sep 9, 9:03 a.m.

    My three teens have FB pages too, and their father and I are "friends" on there as well. I have no qualms about posting on a comment thread to their peers if they say something inappropriate, and while my kids roll their eyes, they know it's part and parcel. We have their profiles set to completely private, and if you (as alexduhon apparently does) have concerns that they are blocking you, it isn't necessary to actually log in to their page to fix it. Just have them show you their settings periodically. It's a communication thing; if your child feels the need to hide something from you, then it's obviously a discussion piece.

    My son has a Formspring. I think it's kind of pointless, but he is relatively unfazed by the occasional rude/mean comment that shows up. I actually have posed questions on there before, just to see his answers. But again, it's a preference/experience thing.

    Involved parenting is tough, but it works. Kudos to you for engaging in it!

  • uterdam Sep 9, 7:09 a.m.

    I am still on the fence with this one. Even when it may seem as something fun to do there is a lot of risks. You are allowing your kids to post information about themselves (e.g. pictures, names, locations, etc) that could be used for anything and by anyone. Even the photos that you allow them to post are no longer yours once uploaded. I am afraid that these new social media tools are replacing the good-old-fashion face-to-face interaction where you are more responsible and aware for how you present / relate yourself with others.

  • alexduhon Sep 9, 12:00 a.m.

    You are aware that being her Facebook friend and setting it up so that you receive their status updates is not enough, right? Your children can specifically block you from seeing things such as specific status updates or pictures. You have to actually log in as them to see everything. I set up an email account to receive all of her status notifcations including her friend's comments on her pictures, statuses, wall posts, and messages so that I can periodically monitor what is going on behind the scenes that you won't just see from being her friend. I am not ready to give her that much freedom.

  • Pseudonym Sep 8, 4:23 p.m.

    As an IT pro, I generally try to keep up with technology even though I'm too busy for most of it, like Facebook and Twitter. I had never heard of Formspring before. It's hard to keep up.

  • lbnblakesmom Sep 8, 11:12 a.m.

    Both of my children (16 and 12) have Facebook accounts and they are both my "friends". That was rule 1. Several of their friends have friended me, and I normally accept. I don't go friending them, and I don't stalk them, either. I generally don't even comment on anything they post. I also have texts sent to me when my children post anything new. I have made my daughter take down posts, comments, and pictures before. I didn't have to say anything, her grandparents did. Everything has good and bad in it, you just have to be an involved parent.

  • gingerlynn Sep 8, 11:06 a.m.

    I am friends with all three of my teens (19 17 14) and have been since they started facebook when my oldest was 15 or so. (It is fun to go back and look at the old profile pics with the braces still on). In the process I have found old friends of mine I went to high school with plus extended family. My rule is to not sweat the small stuff, so when my kids hear me say TAKE THAT OFF, they know I mean it. And usually they know why! And by the way, many of my kids have FRIENDED me, which is a nice way to see who they hang out with. I do not STALK their friends or send them friend requests, but occasionally I send messages asking for their parents email or telling them what a great picture they sent or congratulating on college acceptance. I never judge other teens comments and I certainly don't go running to the parents about what their kids are posting. It would kill the open communication I have with my teens right now.

  • mystica131 Sep 7, 11:10 p.m.

    Thank you so much for this! My oldest is only 10, but he keeps begging for a Facebook account already :( I was not aware of the other sites. I'm always glad to hear other parents' experiences with Facebook and what rules they have in place.