Sunday, September 14, 2014

WELCH: Parenting and students’ social media use

By BUD WELCH, Central Heights Middle School | 1/15/2014

As a parent who once had three middle school children of my own, I know parenting teenagers is not an easy job. However, social media has not made the job any easier.

When it comes to social media, parents take different approaches to supervising their child and his or her Internet use. Some parents monitor their child’s social media accounts, while some do not because they believe this shows a lack of trust in their child’s decision-making skills. Meanwhile, there are parents who do not know how to use social media and therefore cannot monitor their child’s use even if they wanted to. Then there are parents who simply do not have the time to monitor their child’s social media accounts.

As a parent who once had three middle school children of my own, I know parenting teenagers is not an easy job. However, social media has not made the job any easier.

When it comes to social media, parents take different approaches to supervising their child and his or her Internet use. Some parents monitor their child’s social media accounts, while some do not because they believe this shows a lack of trust in their child’s decision-making skills. Meanwhile, there are parents who do not know how to use social media and therefore cannot monitor their child’s use even if they wanted to. Then there are parents who simply do not have the time to monitor their child’s social media accounts.

There are many different ways parents can monitor their child’s social media accounts, such as using software that blocks, records and alerts parents regarding the Internet use of their child. Parents participate in monitoring because they love their child and want to protect him or her.

One of the main concerts parents should have regarding social media revolves around the people with whom their child communicates online. I tell my driver’s education students I don’t worry about their driving skills, I worry about the people they are meeting on the road. The same holds true for Internet use.

Facts parents need to understand about the Internet:

• Some sites require children to be 13 or older to have an account. However, children set up accounts regardless of the age requirements by recording a false age or birth date.

• Social media keeps children connected to friends and provides a vehicle for self-expression.

• Inappropriate pictures, posts and messages can result in damage to a child’s reputation and can follow the child throughout his or her future.

• Children can “tag” their friends in pictures and posts, which violates the friend’s right to privacy.

• Children need to think before they post. Remind your child that everything he or she posts can be seen by a vast amount of people.

• Take time to learn how the privacy settings work on your child’s account.

• Let your child know anything they create or any type of communication can be cut, altered, pasted and sent around the school or Web.

• Don’t ever post the child’s location! It is not safe for teens to do this.

In the end, we as parents still have to step up and recognize we need to be involved in our child’s life. I deal with social media problems on a daily basis. I try to give good advice to our middle school students regarding social media. It basically comes down to monitoring their activities and stopping the behavior that is harmful or unhealthful for your child.

Bud Welch is principal at Central Heights Middle School.

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