Go Ask Mom

Raleigh dad helps parents understand social media, how to communicate with kids

Posted February 23, 2014

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. Brian Foreman Raleigh dad helps parents understand social media, how to communicate with kids

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.


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  • mafiamic Feb 24, 2014

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    You said it "If used properly",like many things from people to drugs to steroids to food.There is always abuse and many overuse it look at all the suicides stemming from the bad posts directed towards other children and rumor mills.
    The problem is many think the "Bonjour" is life and it is real,when the internet( Bonjour) came out it was for information entertainment purposes now it is a business like here wral has to accept and force adds onto you in order to have a page,before there was no adds,when you saw the news you saw the commercials instead of black screens.
    The internet is not life don't talk to a picture find living friends and communicate with your personality and body not your fingers.

  • RGMTRocks Feb 24, 2014

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    Scubagirl2 - I'm probably quite older than this other person too. I mean, I'm actually a grandmother of an elementary aged child - thank Goodness I'm not as close minded as mafiamic. I don't have time to call and visit with all of the wide circle of people I care about. I'm guessing some people have really small circles which wouldn't surprise me in this case..... You hit the nail right on the head with everything you said in your post - but then, I usually think that when reading your comments on wral stories. :)

  • RGMTRocks Feb 24, 2014

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    How awesome for you and your husband! Social media and the internet can really open up the world to us when used right and certainly adds value to our lives in many ways. I have a niece who could tell a similar story to yours and happily married to a wonderful man for 6 years! Life is Good! :)

  • Hope Lives Feb 24, 2014
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    Hey Maficamic - I was very active in my community as a single person. I took part in leadership seminars and did TONS of volunteer work for organizations in the community AND my church. I met many people, but I did NOT meet my husband that way. Sure it got me a couple of dates, but no one who was "right" for me. Wanna know how I met my husband? CRAIGSLIST! Sometimes these are the "chance" happenings that people don't get outside of the online world. Now this was a chance meeting and I don't recommend people using Craigslist as their new dating avenue, but we are HAPPILY married and have been for going on 7 years. I could not imagine ever meeting a better man and I am fortunate enough to have met him in an unconventional way that wouldn't have happened without the internet.

  • Forthe Newssite Feb 24, 2014
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    "Isn't that invasion of her privacy?"

    And THAT right there is the problem for many kids......parents treat them like equals, like adults, and don't want to hurt their feelings by 'spying'. Well spying is needed I think in many cases.

    "Fact of life????????????,how old are you?,"

    Well I'm older than you are and it IS a fact of life...don't like it don't use it BUT it has made it possible to people/friends who live in other countries-not just around the corner-to keep in touch with each other. If for no other reason than that I enjoy it-but there are others as well. Get off your high horse

  • RGMTRocks Feb 24, 2014

    wow. You should really wake up mafiamic. I'm not interested in sparring back and forth on this 'social media' site. My daughter is just fine thank you and not sheltered - She's loved and educated; smart and well rounded and OH, you won't find her hanging out with kids who have as she says - sketchy morals & do stupid things that can change or end their life in an instant. That's HER choice. She knows all about it; just not interested in being involved. Nobody in our family spends hours on social media. You assume a LOT in your judgement. I think she tweets an avg of 5 times per week and sometimes less because she doesn't 'live by Twitter' or any other site. All social media is a choice and used in different ways by different people. We ALL get to choose; who are you to judge? and how'd you get on the dating site train - never mind.

  • mafiamic Feb 24, 2014

    I trust my 17 year old daughter but I don't do that blindly; I gain more trust in her by being involved and watching what she does and says. I also learn more about what's important to her by seeing what she Tweets about that she doesn't necessecerily discuss in every day conversation. I welcome this addition of his monthly posts.

    Isn't that invasion of her privacy?,If you trust her then you know she wouldn't be around the ones she shouldn't and know she will be ok on the social media sites.But if it is a fact of life for teenagers then they have never been outside to experience life,and life isn't about sheltering them from all aspecyts including the bad? sides for you shelter children or anyone under the guise of "Protecting" them then that is just showing how weak they are and giving you the power over them.
    Yes you can protect them but don't shelter and lock them away from life.

  • mafiamic Feb 24, 2014

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    Fact of life????????????,how old are you?,when this country was smart and strong the fact of life was communicating outside with real people,calling family visiting family and friends.This country has become so fearful and lazy they are afraid to go out and have to meet people online.Even get dates online?,get real you get dates by going out and looking for someone,the dating service relationships very few last and sorry if you have to pay for a dating site to get a date that is something else that I used to to hear when I walked down certain streets and neighborhoods,"Hey you want a date?".
    No social media is not for families you make your schedule,no one is too busy to call or text family unless they are so introverted and can't be bothered for family overrides money any day.
    Granted I have a facebook every now and then I have it for awhile then deactivate it for awhile,and I have a twitter but I don't spend all hours and time on them

  • RGMTRocks Feb 24, 2014

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    My Goodness, aren't we cynical! Social media is a fact of life and when used properly, it can definitely add value and help us keep up with many friends and family - because we really don't have the time to call and visit with everyone in our lives as often as we'd like. For teens, social media is a fact of life and any parent who doesn't realize that and learn about it, keep up with their kids and YES, communicate with them about it in the traditional way is foolish. I am quite savvy about technology and social media as well but I'm always open to the thoughts and ideas of others. I trust my 17 year old daughter but I don't do that blindly; I gain more trust in her by being involved and watching what she does and says. I also learn more about what's important to her by seeing what she Tweets about that she doesn't necessecerily discuss in every day conversation. I welcome this addition of his monthly posts.

  • Hope Lives Feb 24, 2014
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    Teens don't think about their parents tweeting them I'm sure. But even if a teen doesn't acknowledge that it means something to them, it usually does. My parents used to go to every single band concert I had. It used to drive me nuts because I didn't think it was necessary to go to every one. But looking back, I appreciate that they did because it shows that they were taking an interest in the things that I liked to do and were important to me. They supported me and encouraged me and this was one way they showed it. It has been studied and reported many times that teens do actually listen to their parents guidance and want their guidance, even if they don't show it. What you say and do for your kids does make an impact at any age, even when you're not sure it matters.