Why every parent needs to learn about social media.

Whether you like it or not social media is here to stay. Parents have two choices. Either close your eyes and wish it away or learn about it so you are able to educate your children directly and indirectly about the value and risks of social media.

This does not mean you have to become an active user of Facebook, Twitter or any of the other platforms. You do have a responsibility, however, to become comfortable and familiar with how it is used, when it is used, who it is used by and why it is used. Parents set boundaries. You decide when to allow your child to cross the street alone, ride the bus alone, go to the bathroom alone, babysit, have a cell phone and go to the mall or library alone. Each parent judges readiness differently but all parents believe their child should not do these things until they are ready.

The definition of ready differs not only by age and experience but also by culture and generation. Certainly there are children who are more capable intellectually or physically and have the emotional and judgment self-awareness skills to allow them to perform any number of skills earlier than other children. Although each of you will set the ages for when your child is allowed to explore and begin “risky” activities every parent should also include a period of joint performance of these skills before moving on to a period of parental observation and external time constraints.

As parents we must encourage our children to explore the world. We must give them the freedom to find out that every time they fall down they do not fail and recognize getting hurt does not mean the world is a mean, fearful and angry place where people are out to get them. Every child deserves the opportunity to make choices and explore. If they do not have this power of choice they will exchange exploration and experimentation with self-doubt and self-respect and self-esteem will not develop.

By having opportunities to stretch and extend boundaries your child can learn the importance of giving and sharing with other, of not being judgmental and learning to accept things as they are while learning to strive for things as they wish them to be. These learning experiences interwoven with a tolerance for change and transitions allow your child to recognize and express their divine being and become an adult who is able to seek, accept and understand the meaning of self love. Young children and young adults who are shackled by doubt and fear do not have this opportunity.

So what about social media? Don’t run and hide. Embrace and acknowledge the experiences and opportunities it provides. Allow social media to entertain, enhance, expand and empower your child to seek questions and answers.

Here are some tips:

  • Consider technology your friend and not your enemy.
  • Ask your child to help you understand and use social media.
  • Find creative, family and work related uses for social media.
  • Set limits for the use of social media by your children and teens.
  • Make sure the limits you set are reasonable for both you and your child.
  • Enforce these rules consistently.
  • Commit to this process and monitor your child’s social media use