- This article was copied from theparentcue.org
Want to know how to engage with your kids about the subject of social media?
I have two words for you, “Be curious.”
Want to know how to do that? My approach is simple and so short it’s smaller than a tweet: “Read less minds, ask more questions.”
So often as parents, we put tremendous pressure on ourselves to guess what our kids are up to. Like CSI detectives we take clues from their lives and try to piece together what we think is really going on in their tiny little heads and hearts.
Instead of investigation though, let’s start with conversation.
I have four questions you can ask your kids.
And because parents are some of the busiest humans on the planet, I’m going to keep this quick and short, knocking out one question per blog post.
Let’s jump right in with the very first question you should ask your kids about social media.
How are you using social media right now?
Start off by just taking a casual, informal survey of what sites or platforms your kids are using. Are they reading blogs? Are they using snapchat? Are they texting? (Remember, social media is bigger than just twitter. It’s any technology that lets you share a piece of your life with someone else.)
When you ask this question, make sure your kid knows there’s not a right or wrong answer. You’re not trying to start a cross examination, you’re trying to start a conversation.
If they’ll share how they’re using social media, ask them what they like about it? Be curious about why they use it. Is it to connect with friends? Is it to learn about new music? Are they expressing a hobby or interest through social media? Do they even use it? There’s a million ways your kids can answer this question, but one thing is for certain, they won’t answer it unless you ask.
If they don’t answer at first and open up a long, meaningful conversation that involves Chamomile tea, you should probably give up and assume you are the worst parent ever.
Or, you can admit to yourself that parenting is a marathon not a sprint. If we’re going to be curious about what our kids care about, we have to be patient.
If you get a grunt response, a “nothing” or a “I’m a toddler, I don’t use social media mom,” that’s OK.
Stay curious, and let your kids know you’re here to help them navigate the ins and outs of growing up in a connected world of social media.
Curiosity might have killed the cat, but it’s the secret to starting conversations with your kids about social media.
It’s on us as parents to take the initiative and create a space where our kids can openly talk about the way they are engaging in this wildly engaging technological phenomenon.
In the first post we learned to ask the question,
“How are you using social media right now?”
Today, we’re going to dive into question number two: What do your devices do?
When I was a kid, if I wanted to play Excite Bike on the Super Nintendo with my friend Dave Bruce, Dave Bruce had to come over to my house. In college, if I wanted to play Goldeneye on Nintendo 64, no one could be Oddjob that’s cheating, I had to have friends come to my dorm room. Now, if your kid wants to play Call of Duty with someone in Japan they can.
We live in the age of the connected device, but sometimes we parents forget that. We forget that you can play Minecraft with complete strangers. We forget that an iPod Touch might not be a phone but it can still be used for social media. We forget that even websites designed for kids might offer them access to email.
That was a wake up call for me. My daughters were using two sites that were about dolls. One site let them email other members of the site with pre-written messages like, “Have a good day!” or “Hooray for rainbows.” That’s harmless for an 8-year-old. But the other site let them write their own messages. Without me realizing it, my kids had received their first email address. I’d love to think that every other member of that website is a kid with the best of intentions in mind, but I’ve spent too much time online to trust that.
I didn’t know about that email address until I asked my kids a few questions.
In addition to having this conversation with your kids, you should also ask Google “What do my kids’ devices do?” Spend a little time researching to get a better sense of what’s really going on with the fun devices that your family has.
The days of playing Mike Tyson Punch Out alone in my living room are over. The colors of the ’80s might have made a comeback, but the isolated devices won’t. We live in the age of connectivity. Find out how your kids are connecting by connecting with them.
The Bible is pretty clear about the exact age that you should give a kid a phone. King David gave one to Solomon when he was thirteen. Joseph and Mary gave Jesus one at eleven, but he was the son of God, so he could probably handle the responsibility of an iPhone better than your kid. If you add up those two ages and divide by two you get 12, so easy to figure out.
I’d never tell you the exact age a kid should get a cellphone, laptop or tablet in the same way I wouldn’t tell you what age your kid should get their license. Some kids are ready when the state says they are ready. They are mature and able to make you feel safe the minute they get behind the wheel. Other kids need more time to mature beyond the “jump-the-car-off-a-huge-dirt-piles stage.” (The poor Duke brothers from Hazzard county never reached that level of maturity.)
So today’s post won’t focus on the question, “When should your kid get a phone?” but instead will focus on a different question you need to ask your own children, “Which of your friends have devices?”
Why do you need to ask this question? Because not every parent thinks the same way. You might decide that in your house, no one gets a smartphone until they’re in high school. Your daughter’s best friend got one in the fifth grade though. So although your child might not have a phone with access to all the wonders and woe the Internet offers, she does now via her friend. You might think you don’t need to talk about technology to a fifth grader but if the friend whose house your son is sleeping over has a tablet, you need to talk about it. Earlier than you think.
So sit your kids down and ask that question, “Which of your friends have devices?”
As with any question about technology, start a conversation, not an accusation. You don’t want your daughter to think just because her friend Jill has an iPhone, her parents have made a bad decision. Or that Jill has done something wrong.
I asked my daughters this question recently and it started a great conversation about technology. They don’t have phones yet but we were able to discuss their expectations and come up with a rough plan for the future.
Stay curious. Ask questions. You don’t have to be a technology expert, but you do have to be invested if you want to stay connected to your kids.
The other day, my 11-year-old daughter added a stock quotes widget to the dashboard of my wife’s laptop. Without talking to either one of us, she figured out how to track four stocks her class is studying.
When I asked her about it she said, “It was just easier with a widget instead of going to the NYSE all the time.” I nodded my head in agreement as if that was the most obvious thing in the world, all the while thinking to myself, “Someday I am going to work for her.”
Our kids come by technology naturally. Have you ever seen a 3-year-old use an iPad? It’s incredible. They scroll and swipe and expand like they were born with the devices. That often makes us nervous. We worry that as they get older, technology will become a dividing factor in our homes. We envision teenagers stuck on their devices, wearing headphones and being physically present but emotionally absent from family vacations as they refuse to look up from their devices.
But what if there was a simple way for us to connect with our kids who are online? I believe there is and it’s the 4th question parents should ask kids about social media. Here it is:
“Have you seen anything interesting lately?”
This question makes the Internet a two way street and I actually learned it from my own children. Right now, they often ask me if anyone has posted new cat videos on the Internet. That is without a doubt their favorite use of the Internet. Every few days they ask me that, hoping that someone in the world wide web has filmed a cat doing something humorous.
I assure them the answer to that question will always be yes. For the rest of their lives they will always be able to find a new cat video online. But as they get older, and continue doing things like tracking stock on their own, the question is bound to shift.
I will be the one asking it. I will be the one asking them if they’ve seen anything funny or silly online. I will be the one asking if there’s a song they like or a blog they’re reading. I will be the curious one.
Maybe for you and your son it will be about extreme sports. You’ll have a shared interest in videos of people doing ridiculous motocross jumps. Maybe it will be music focused with your daughter or sports scores or any number of things.
It’s a big Internet with a lot of possible connection points. If we’ll ask the right questions.
If your kids are online or using the Internet at school already, flip the tables on them and be curious.
Don’t wait for them to start a conversation. Start one of your own by asking,
“Have you seen anything interesting lately?”