Can I be honest here for a second? When Heather asked me to write about tweens and technology, my anxiety dialed up to eleven. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to hear scary stories, nor did I want to write one that would terrify parents. Because while I like celebrity twitter feuds to be sensational, I prefer parenting articles to be anything but.

However, a surprising thing happened throughout this series. After talking to experts, I felt less afraid and more empowered. Yes there are scary stories out there about social media gone wrong, but as parents, we don’t have to feel paralyzed by them.

I recently spoke with Drew Fiddler from Baltimore Child Abuse Center about the social media trainings she and her colleagues developed for parents and tweens hosted by Wee Chic Boutique. I asked what parents need to know, and what questions we need to ask when it comes to our kids and social media.

What are some of the main things parents should cover when they talk to their kids about social media and the internet? And when should we start having this conversation?

The conversation really begins when your child comes home with the first school assignment that requires them to search online. That’s a time to talk to them about search engines: how what you type in the box matters, and what to do if they accidentally stumble across something that’s inappropriate (turn off the screen and tell a parent).

It’s also important to talk with your kids about what apps they’re using, who they’re communicating with, if anyone has ever asked him/her to send them something (like pictures).

And create social media contract with your child. Include what would be appropriate, what wouldn’t be appropriate, and what are some of the consequences.

What about the devices themselves? What should parents be aware of?

It’s okay to look with your kids at the apps they’re using. Also consider that location matters when it comes to devices. For instance, do you really need to have your phone/ipad in your room? Maybe you agree as a family to keep all phones in the kitchen at night.

What do parents find most surprising about the training?

Parents ask themselves, how to I even begin to understand all of the technology my kid has access to? But you don’t have to be up to date on every little change of technology to keep your child safe. It’s empowering to know that.

You do have to know where your kids are keeping their phones (geotagging) and make sure privacy settings are used. There’s a great worksheet on netsmartz.com that lists all the different privacy settings and policies for all the apps and social media.

As far as the kids go, kids say “I don’t want to do these stupid things, but I’m afraid I might get caught up in the moment. I might do something that I didn’t mean to do.” Kids aren’t trying to make mistakes, they’re just making these decisions with an underdeveloped pre-frontal cortex.

I think back to my own tween years and remember many experiences that illustrate Drew’s point—times when I wasn’t necessarily trying to make mistakes, but found trouble anyway. There were prank calls, three-way calling stings, looking up scrotum in the school’s unabridged dictionary. Oh the awkwardness.

Frankly, I don’t expect my kids to be any better at growing up than I was. Maybe that’s where all this parental anxiety comes from. I know they’re going to fumble and fall and today’s technology can amplify their mistakes. So it’s time for me to sit down with my kids and have a conversation…several of them.  Now, let’s draft that social media contract.

Curious about what goes into a social media contract. Click here for an example.

 

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 and second article here.