Raleigh dad helps parents understand social media, how to communicate with kids
Posted February 23
Brian Foreman has always been a gadget kind of guy. The father of a tween and teen in Raleigh has kept up on the latest technology and social media platforms.
"I do like toys and shiny things," he joked.
But in his day job as a consultant working with churches and their youth groups, he realized that not every parent is as savvy. He'd talk to friends in the ministry and fellow parents and they'd ask him questions like "what is Twitter?" he tells me. And if they knew anything about the various ways to communicate online, it would be negative.
"What they did know about it, parents were informed by their fears," said Foreman, who has spent the last 22 years working with teens in churches.
Those conversations eventually spurred Foreman to start up a second career as a social media educator. A year ago, Foreman published "How to be a Social Media Parent" to help parents understand social media and how their children are using it. He also launched Social Media Parents, a website with information for parents about how they can foster healthy communication with their kids online. He's taken his message on the road, traveling across the southeast for workshops and programs for religious and secular groups.
Foreman is quick to point out that there are, of course, dangers lurking online. But when parents are familiar with what's out there and actively communicate with their kids online and offline, they can know when to spot a potential issue or help their child navigate through it, he said. For instance, a parent can help a kid who is being bullied on SnapChat download an app that will capture the bully.
"There are positives," he said.
Foreman's message, however, is as much about the different social media as it is about helping parents understand their teens and why they do what they do. Communication is key to building a strong relationship. Online platforms just add another opportunity to talk with kids where they are communicating already, he said.
"Teenagers need healthy relationships with their parents," Foreman writes on his website. "Communication is the key to a strong relationship. As they express themselves online, you need to be there with them. ... Even if you are not interacting with them regularly through social media, you should be aware online, so that you can be present offline."
In his role as dad, Foreman said he often talks with his son, a high school freshman, on Twitter. He'll follow his son's tweets and also share articles and other information that he thinks his son might be interested in like Minecraft. Those mid-day tweets remind his son that dad's thinking about him.
"That's an affirmation for him," Foreman said.
And if you're really looking for an end game here on why you should start talking with your kids or at least understanding what they're doing online, here it is: So you keep up those communications when they leave home for college and young adulthood and so one day you can talk to your grandkids.
"I want to continue to build the system of communication with whatever tools we have so as they age, we can continue that open communication," Foreman said.
I'm excited that Foreman will be sharing posts on Go Ask Mom once a month starting this Wednesday. He'll write about social media, kids, teens and communication. As my older one enters the tween years, I really look forward to learning more from him.
To learn more about Foreman and his work, go to his website and watch my quick video interview with him.
Go Ask Mom features local moms and dads every Monday.