Do you have an Instagram account? Is it filled with selfies, pictures of you partying with friends, inspirational messages, and clever hashtags? Do you have loads of followers and regularly get tons of “likes” and supportive messages?
Or do you have no clue as to what an Instagram account is or what you do with it? When your sons’ conversations include the words “Snapchat”, “Twitter” or “tweeting”, do you automatically tune out and start thinking about pretty much anything else?
We at GCP are fascinated with the popularity of social media and how it has become an integral part of many of our lives. We are particularly interested in how parents are participating in this brave new technological world, and how you are talking with your children about the do’s and don’ts of social media postings.
Parents who are total social media fans, posting at every turn, are “peacocks”. These peacocks are strutting their stuff on the internet for all to see and admire. On the other side of the spectrum are the “ostriches” who have buried their heads in the sand and have no interest in learning about any of these new fangled things. There are issues to consider on either end of this spectrum. Where do you fall?
If you are a peacock, you are probably up on the latest social media sites, and can easily have conversations with your son about what he is seeing and doing on these sites. But you should be mindful of your son’s (and daughter’s) access to your pics and postings. What kind of messages (intentional and unintentional)are you sending with your posts? How much of your personal life is posted for everyone to see, and are you setting a good example of social media responsibility for your son to follow? For example, if all you are posting is pictures of yourself in exotic places or partying with celebrities, are you suggesting to your son that it is fine for him to do this (or aspire to do this) as well?
On the other hand, if you have had absolutely no interest in trying to understand these social media sites and how they work, it is time to wake up and be a conscious parent. You should pay attention, and you have to know what to pay attention to. People say and do the craziest and most inappropriate things on the internet, and you need to have a sense of what your son is seeing and reacting to on these sites. He needs guidance on how much personal information he should reveal, he needs to be reminded that nothing he posts on the internet ever goes away, and he needs to know that all sorts of authority figures can have access to his sites, including admissions officers and prospective employers. Do you follow your son on his social media sites? In my family we all friend and follow each other, and as a parent I highly recommend this. But even if you choose not to have access to his sites you must have the ability to talk with him about being responsible on social media, and you can’t do that if you have no idea what he is doing on it.
We at GCP would love to know where you are on this peacock/ostrich spectrum, and how you talk to your sons about their social media use. Post your comments here or send a tweet to us @GndCtrlParentg, and let us know if you are a #peacock, an #ostrich, or somewhere in between.