Social Networking For Kids
If you have kids who are headed into their teens, you are in the league of pioneer parents raising kids in a world where Social Media dominates the way people share their life experiences. There’s no map to being an effective parent in these times, and it is exciting to navigate through this world of parenting using your internal navigation system. If you are not paying attention and participating in the world around you and how your kids are perceiving it, unbeknownst to you, they might be up to all sorts of no good!
Being a fairly active twitter user, I am fully aware of the noise and traffic on twitter. I was not enthused by the idea of hearing that kids in Grade 6 at my children’s school are active on twitter. I am curious as to why the parents would allow that, or if they are even aware that their children are on twitter? How vulnerable are those kids on twitter, or any other social media platform? Some might argue that we turned out OK, as when we were growing up any stranger could approach us. No harm was done and we survived that. Added to that would be the logical conclusion that if your child was to feel vulnerable or in a compromising position, they would let you know. It is a fair argument, but is it true?
I am all for technology, and I believe not having some form of profile on the internet is an opportunity cost for your own career prospects. If you are wondering why you get overlooked for promotion opportunities, read the post Why Are You Not Getting That Promotion? You don’t want to be the world’s best kept secret! The same applies for your children, so it is not entirely smart to try and lock them off from the rest of the world and how it is currently functioning. Just this morning, my seven year old was teaching me how to arrange my icons on my iPhone, including setting up folders. It is inspiring watching how my ten year old and her younger sister navigate gracefully on the iPad. Kids love these gadgets and apps and they seem to have a natural ability to adopt them without much prior exposure.
Everything, and not just Social Media, has to be introduced at an age appropriate time and within a safe environment as you teach your children how to engage with people. There is no specific formula, so you have to ensure your approach is relevant to you, your family and therefore your environment in a way that it makes for effective achievement of the desire outcome. My first child learnt to ride a bicycle that had training wheels, while my second child did not have training wheels when she learnt to ride. My second child was older when we introduced her to the bicycle and she therefore had a better awareness of her centre of gravity to start with.
As parents we know from experience that we do not teach a child to cross the road by leaving them to go it alone across a six lane highway. Even a small road is not an option as you first want to teach the child about the bus, and other cars that are travelling on the road. Only at a certain age, and having gone through the road crossing with your child in hand, are you comfortable to let the child cross that road on their own. So why do we not follow the same logic in terms of giving our children the freedom of the internet and hooking up with social networking sites?
You may have no interest in this childish Social Media stuff, but are you aware of Social Networks and how deeply entangled your child is on the likes of twitter, facebook, foursquare, etc. When is it appropriate to allow your child to be a user of Social Networking sites? What precautions will you take to ensure that they are properly equipped when they go out there?