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Negotiating social media use with kids

January 26, 2015

Your baby’s adorable. You can’t resist taking pictures of her. Naturally you post them to Facebook or Instagram to share with family and friends. You record the first tooth, the messy attack on her first piece of birthday cake, the first day of school – as she grows up, you document it all. Then suddenly, when she’s 7 she asks you to stop. That’s what happened to Spark producer Michelle Parise with her daughter Lola. Now she asks Lola’s permission before posting pictures of her online. Listen to her story (audio 3:02)

There are also several remarkable stories where photos shared online have actually saved lives or diagnosed rare conditions, like this story of a child’s photo on Facebook leading to the diagnosis of an eye condition.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. I like seeing pictures of friends and their families sharing life events, but I don’t post any myself. At age 8, my daughter asked why not and was disappointed that there were no pictures of her online. Did this affect her sense of self? Here’s another Spark audio clip about How social media could be affecting your child’s sense of self. (audio 6:25).

Kid texting

Image via Flickr: Adam Fagen

Now that my daughter is older she’s relieved that her digital footprint doesn’t include her as a baby frolicking in the bathtub.

As my daughter starts to explore the social web I find myself holding my tongue, wanting to say no. But it would be ridiculously hypocritical of me to forbid her using social media while advocating for its use in health. So instead, we negotiate. I get to see her posts, followers and private messages, guiding her on safe use and potential pitfalls as well as letting her explore without interference. I guide her health literacy along with her digital literacy. There’s a lot of health and wellness advice out there that’s bogus. I want her to be able to distinguish the good from the bad. It’s a fine, and sometimes precarious, balance.

Many of us, myself included, shared Andrew Watts’ Medium post-gone-viral: A Teenager’s View on Social Media written by an actual teen. We thought we’d gotten an inside view of teenage use of social media. Sobering counterpoint was offered by danah boyd’s post An Old Fogey’s Analysis of a Teenager’s View on Social Media showing that teens know themselves no better than we do.

This week on #hcsmca (January 28 at 9pm ET), I’d like to explore negotiating social media use with kids through the various stages and ages.

  • T1: Do you talk about and share photos of your kids on social media? Why or why not?
    • T1a: Have your kids ever objected to your sharing, or not sharing, about them on social media?
    • T1b: What is the appropriate age for kids to start using social media?
  • T2:  How do you/we guide digital and health literacy of children?
  • T3: How much do you patrol and when do you let go? How do you keep them safe?
  • T4: Share proud moments of your kid’s use of social media.

Read the Jan 28 #hcsmca transcript.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 27, 2015 8:18 am

    This is an excellent post Colleen.

    The two things I ponder about kids and SM: first, who “owns” the digital image of our children? The parent? If so, post away? If the child owns his/her own image, how do we get their consent to post, especially if they are 6 or 7 or 5 for example?

    Second, in allowing our children to access SM for themselves, profiling for advertising concerns me, and leads to…should we give our young ones different guidelines for different platforms so use of FB, for example, is more limited to reduce advertising that arrives in our young teen’s news feed?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. January 27, 2015 2:04 pm

    My 14-year-old daughter is a big fan of an author who writes a series of fictional books for teens. She follows this author on Instagram, and began posting her own artistic renditions of the books’ covers, always tagging the author. Before long, she developed quite a following of like-minded book fans. Imagine her surprise when the author herself reached out to her on Instagram, complimented her artwork, and asked if she could connect with her via Facetime or Skype to discuss helping her promote upcoming books. And imagine my surprise when I found out an adult was reaching out to a young teen via social media and asking for a videoconference.

    My wife and I have always taught our daughter digital literacy, and warned her of the risks inherent with anonymous online communication. So when she received this request, she came to us and asked if it was appropriate to respond. Even though she was star-struck, and excited about having one of her favourite authors contact her, her instincts told her to be wary.

    We did some research and discovered this author did have a group of fans who she recruited to help her promote her books—maintaining a blog, creating video content, doing web design, etc. We responded to the author, asking her to connect with us directly before authorizing any direct contact with our daughter. Which she did. And in the end, everything was quite legitimate and our daughter is now actively involved in some truly exciting and creative work with a published author.

    But it might not have been so. Not everyone online is who they claim to be. I’m happy that we gave our daughter the tools to be aware of the risks, and that she used them responsibly and appropriately. Still, we continue to monitor her social media use and keep an eye on the tone and content of the posts. And it’s a big job, given the number of friends and followers she’s accumulated. Welcome to the new realities of parenting!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. January 28, 2015 12:12 am

    This is a really interesting topic and covers some key parenting issues of mine.

    I’d like to raise my kids to be responsible, empathetic human beings and recognize that they need to do that in meat-space first. The cues of body language, eye contact and shared social dynamics are so important in helping them figure out how to relate to others. Of course, these skills now need to be translated into the online world. I’m not sure all adults have figured out how to do this, so teaching our kids – well, I think society needs to figure this one out together.

    That being said, I think that expecting them to develop these skills unsupervised online at an early age (or any age) is unfair. I’m hoping that as I share my own social networking journey and as they help me to figure how much of their lives it’s ok to share, we come up with a common ethic of what’s appropriate that they’ll carry on in their life. There’s a lot of age segregation of the adult and teen/kid world online. This worries me. I think it creates a ‘Lord of the Flies’ atmosphere (maybe in both age groups?) where appropriate behaviour isn’t modeled. Maybe this needs to be changed.

    On a separate note, many of us in the #hcsmca community are online to get support and community because of health conditions. The online space is there for kids to get support as well. How do we, as parents, help model appropriate ways to share online and find appropriate forums for kids to connect online. This is especially important in the rare disease world where IRL connections can be hard to come by. The one I’m currently looking into is by the Starlight Foundation.

    I know kids don’t care about Facebook so much any more (at least not in my town), but another interesting question is the whole age-segragation of cultures online (not friending kids/kids’ friends) on online circles and vice versa. I think it creates a ‘Lord of the Flies’ environment where kids are forced to try to figure their own social rules and that’s what can lead to poor behaviour. Maybe if adults and kids were sharing space on social networks there would me more modelling of good behaviour? I don’t know, this is the rabbit hole I head down!

    I’m looking forward to this chat. I think it’s going to be really interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. January 28, 2015 7:34 am

    Thank you for adding your perspectives Paul, Dave and Isabel. I look forward to our weaving them into tonight’s #hcsmca chat.


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