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Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Summer of Social: 5 priorities for your family tech contract this summer

Posted June 20
Updated June 21

Editor's Note: Laura Tierney has spent her career developing social media strategy for major brands, including Nike and Disney. Today, the Triangle mom is setting her sights on helping teens and their role models use social media in positive and meaningful ways through The Social Institute. She shares her philosophy here. A free copy of its Family Social Standards Agreement is available here.

Technology contracts are not static documents — they should grow and change as your children age, as new technology and platforms become available, and as your kids become increasingly empowered to use social media for good. Yes, empowered!

So as your family settles into its summer schedule, before your son goes off to camp or your daughter competes in her first swim meet, before they both have a lot more free time, revisit your tech contract to address these new situations. Empower your children to use social media for good.

Below are five reasons to make some edits to this important document.

You’ll take more family photos

While spending a week at grandma’s house, hanging out at the neighborhood pool, or even just spending more time at home together — you’re bound to end up in your child’s social media pages. And parents, you’re probably going to be taking more photos of your kids, too. Agree to ask one another’s permission before posting to social media.

Kids, ask your siblings and parents. Parents, ask your kids. Really.

Your child will want to share what’s important to them

For kids today, social media is being social, period. It’s not an extra thing, but the thing itself. Sharing what they are passionate about “in real life” on the platforms they enjoy most can be encouraging, especially if you, parents, get behind them. Make sure your family technology contract includes guidelines around how and when to do this.

For example, if your child is super excited about going to basketball camp, encourage her to get footage of practice and games. You and she can edit the footage after camp and compile a best-of video to show recruiters on YouTube (or just family and friends). If your child is at the skate park for hours every day, ask to see the photos he took of the moves he’s practicing. Maybe a friend shot some video — put some music behind it and post it to Instagram together.

Your child will use social media more often

Some of your child’s school friends don’t live nearby, so they won’t be seeing each other very much until the fall. The understandable tendency will be to stay connected over the summer as often as they were during the school year. Plus, with the extra free time summer allows, many kids will simply spend more time on Snapchat, musical.ly, Instagram, WhatsApp, or wherever their friends are.

Make sure the tech contract helps them balance their time on social media with time off. Turn off devices an hour before bedtime or put devices away at the dinner table. Or both and more!

And parents, set a good example by striking a balance yourself.

Your child will learn about new role models

Posting to social media takes far less time than scrolling through feeds, liking, commenting, and absorbing all there is to see. What and who children see in their feeds is just as important as what they share. Talk with them about who they are following and encourage them to follow positive role models.

If your child is younger, consider requiring that they follow only family and close friends, and then scroll through their feeds with them to see what they’re seeing, ask questions, and recommend other friends or family members. Older kids should consider following inspiring role models who lift up others, share what’s important to them, and can encourage them to do the same. Think Steph Curry, Emma Watson, and Beyonce, but also teen photographer Ryan Parrilla, Little League World Series pitcher Mo'ne Davis, and the now 12-year-old behind #1000BlackGirlBooks, Marley Dias.

Your child can promote causes and summer projects

Social media is like a microphone to the world. Anyone can potentially post something that people around the world can see. Are your kids volunteering this summer? Great! Encourage them to talk about it on social media. Maybe they’re doing an internship with an environmental organization. Cool! Include in the tech contract something about sharing the organization’s projects — and what your child is doing to help — on their favorite platforms.

Make this summer a summer of (positive!) social media by revising your family tech contract to best reflect your family’s unique summertime circumstances. Empower them to use social for good.

A free copy of The Social Institute's Family Social Standards Agreement is available here.

Laura Tierney is founder and president of The Social Institute, which teaches students positive ways to handle one of the biggest drivers of their social development: social media. By reinforcing character strengths like empathy, integrity, and teamwork, and by teaching teens and their role models (from parents to U.S. Olympians) to be their best selves on all platforms, The Social Institute is helping students “win the game of social media.”

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