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.