Simplify parenting with social media
Digital First Media
Are your kids looking for love in all the wrong places?
Researcher Yalda T. Uhls of the Children’s Digital Media Center investigated this question recently through a survey of children between the ages of 9 and 15. She and her team asked kids to describe their values -- what’s most important to them, what their hopes and dreams are. The answers were a little disheartening: The more time kids spend engaging in social media, the more likely they were to cite things like fame and money.
As parents we (hopefully!) know, recognition and financial success have their utility. But children growing up in a complex world need a much better set of values. Amid the din of online media, how can we teach kids essential ethics like empathy, compassion and integrity? How do we get them to develop a healthy perspective on fame? How do we instill a positive sense of community?
Jim Taylor, author of Raising Generation Tech: Prepare Your Children for a Media-Fueled World, commented on this imperative in a related article in the Huffington Post: "I think parents need to sit down and say, ‘What do we value? What kinds of kids do we want our kids to be? And to help create those kids, what do we need to do? What are the obstacles?"
A little introspection will help parents elucidate what they value, and it’s not difficult to recognize what the obstacles are. It’s understanding what needs to be done that I think parents struggle with most.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parents "close the participation gap" by finding out directly how their kids are engaging with media. And they recommend we do this by talking with our kids and observing them directly, not by spying on them.
Additionally, the AAP says parents should talk with their kids about issues that are especially pertinent to tweens and teens: bullying, popularity, status, depression, social anxiety, risk-taking and sexual development. These are issues we should be talking with our kids about anyway. In fact, Dr. Michael Craig Miller says in Harvard Medical School’s blog that the AAP’s recommendations for guiding kids through a digital-rich world fits in with mainstream parenting.
"We don’t (and perhaps never will) have evidence to determine whether children are more or less at risk in the digital age. My impression is that in many communities, today’s parents know a lot more about their children’s daily lives than did parents of earlier generations ... This guideline succeeds because it builds upon well-understood parenting principles."
In other words, don’t over-think it. Parenting kids in the age of social media relies on the same approaches that worked a generation ago: pay attention, ask questions, answer questions and model good behavior.
For a little more reassurance, it’s helpful to know that "kids tend to use social media to augment -- not replace -- their real-world relationships," according to family resource institute Parent Further. Hopefully your kids do have real-world relationships. If not, that’s something you’d be concerned about, regardless of your child’s level of engagement with the digital world.
And know that kids are likely already self-aware about the empty lure of Internet fame. My 10-year-old’s favorite YouTube video right now is the parody song, "Might As Well Face It, You’re Addicted to Likes."
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