When my kids were little, there was an unwritten — but agreed upon checklist — of appropriate things to discuss among my circle of mom friends. On the list were things like potty training, nap schedules, preschools, etc. We traded notes and shared frustrations.

As my kids have aged, the conversation topics have shifted. The number one topic these days is social media—specifically, “Are your kids on Instagram?” 

A few weeks ago, I ran into a friend at lunch. After chatting briefly about politics—I know, I know, but it is a hot topic right now—my friend hit me with something hard. “Would you want to know if your child was sending bra pics?” Oof. Talk about a punch in the gut.

I stood there trying to catch my breath. Okay, this was it. This was where we were now. Long gone were the days of talking about nap times. We were in full-scale sexting territory now.

I don’t think I was ready for it. I kind of wished we could back to talking about politics; it seemed easier. 

But as Adam Rosenberg, the Executive Director of the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, says that when it comes to social media, “We have to learn to live with it.” 

I recently spoke with Adam about the Tweens and Technology series BCAC is running at Wee Chic Boutique, and got some expert advice for parents. Here’s what he had to say…

interview with adam rosenberg: how to talk to tweens about social media<

What’s the most common question you get from parents?

Should I let my kid go on Facebook (or other social media platform)? My answer is, within reason. Facebook or Kik or any of these other platforms are not the enemy. The enemy is using this platform to get to your kid.

What should I be worried about when it comes to my kids and social media?

It’s not social media that’s the problem. It’s the misuse of social media that’s allowed bad guys access to kids. Kids are playing in unsupervised spaces and we need to do a better job knowing what’s out there.

How do you hope to empower parents?

This {Tweens and Technology Series at Wee Chic} is an attempt at leveling the playing field, so as parents we can understand what platforms are available and how they work.

What should parents take away from this series?

One, they should do an examination with their kids’ phones and have a conversation about what should/should not get posted. Two, they should monitor privacy settings. Three, they should set real rules and expectations. Sign a social media contract and lay out rules and expectations. And four, learn that there are some apps that can cause more trouble than others. Some can cause more harm than good; especially those with anonymous usage.

What’s important for parents to remember when talking to their kids?

Honesty matters, as does mutual trust. You have to find ways to build appropriate communication between you and your child. Parents should give their child information and strategies to manage risk. It’s also important to remember this isn’t a “one time only” speech; it’s an ongoing dialogue.

During our conversation, Adam shared that he has tween-aged kids of his own and recognizes that monitoring your child’s social media usage and having these kinds of conversations are hard to do. But you don’t have to do it alone. It’s important to reach out to fellow parents.

“Parents should also have conversations with their kids’ friends parents. We need to build a network. It’s not fair to you to be the only parent to be monitoring social media usage.”

I thought back to my friend and her question. Would I want to know if my kid sent another kid a bra pic?

Yes. Yes, I would. It wouldn’t be comfortable to hear, but since when has comfort been a feature of parenting?

As Adam says, “There’s a common understanding that you want to know when your kids are getting into trouble. We all have to stick together. We can’t be afraid to be the unpopular parent.”

about baltimore child abuse center

Baltimore Child Abuse Center is a children’s advocacy center. BCAC provides crisis counseling services and works in collaboration with the Baltimore Police Department and Child Protective Services. Learn more about their services by visiting bcaci.org. While there, you can find links to sample social media contracts to help you draft a contract for you and your child. You can also find resources at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Click here to learn more about the Tweens and Technology training at Wee Chic.

about our article sponsor: wee chic boutique

Wee Chic believes kids are never too young to enjoy great style and self-expression.  Considered one of Baltimore’s most fashionable boutiques and winner of six consecutive Best of Baltimore nods, Wee Chic offers a unique selection of kids clothing, and accessories from birth to size 16 plus baby and birthday gifts that are sure to wow!  Now in a newly expanded home at Green Spring Station, this mom-owned boutique prides itself on bringing Baltimore a selection on par with New York and LA shops without losing sight of the importance of quality and comfort. Wee Chic looks forward to being your favorite destination for all things mini in the world of fun, fashion, and design.

 

Editor’s Note: This article is number two in a three part series about Tweens and Technology. Read the first article here.