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Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Trouble with Twitter


I consider myself a social media savvy mother. I tweet, upload, update, pin, post and enjoy using a clever hash tag just as much as every kid under the age of twenty, including my own teenagers.

I'll admit some days I’ve used this technology to my benefit. I've texted my kids to the table – you know since using the dinner triangle went out of style a hundred years ago – and I’ve also checked Twitter to see if my kid is having a good day.

Well, that sounds all nice and modern family-ish but, in my opinion, social media actually proves quite challenging. I'm convinced this age of technology has made parenting much more difficult for me than it did for my parents or their parents.


For example, just what is the protocol for discipline when information is garnered from social media?
I mean back in the good ole days if my parents suspected I was up to no good they sat me down for an inquisition. On occasion I would crack under pressure and fess up, or they would see through the lies and find out the truth about where I was, what I did and who I was with. Today, while I still believe face to face conversation is the most important form of communication, I recognize the ability to catch my kids is literally in the palm of my hands.

Which begs to ask the question; can I punish my kids for what I read about online?
While my knee-jerk reaction is "Yes, of course!" it's not that easy. For starters have you seen my profile picture? It is a lot like the photograph I've submitted for this column. It is one of my most flattering pictures, so complimentary that in fact, I have been told that it doesn't even look like me. This, while slightly offensive, is true. I, like everyone else, portray myself favorably. I'll fully admit I only use my wittiest quotes, most impressive stories and prettiest pictures to create an image of a cool, smart, funny mother. So while all that may be entertaining to my friends and tweeps, it is, in truth a semi- counterfeit glimpse of who I am.

Now, I know I'm not the only one to behave this way online, we all do it, even our children and given their maturity levels how much more misleading is my kid's online persona? And if it is falsified or exaggerated information how can I wade through it as a parent? If a student posts about underage drinking, for example, how serious can I take it?

Before you accuse me of being a helicopter, cyber stalking mother, I assure you I am not. Simply having an online presence puts me in a position to see information. And if I can see this information so can our family, teachers, admission counselors and future employers. Therefore this projected, perhaps disingenuous, information can have serious consequences. I understand teenagers feel they have a right to privacy, heck I did too at their age, yet the reality is social media outlets are public arenas.

That’s why I don’t hesitate to approach my kids for their posts or their friend’s posts. Sound harsh? Well then maybe you've not felt that heaviness in the pit of your stomach when you stumble across a link of a familiar young person smoking pot.

Yep, I really saw that.

So are kids these days more reckless that we were? Probably not, the world just has more access to them and our kids welcome that, especially from their peers. Remember each update, tweet and post has the ability to be 'liked' or 'shared' by others and our kids are painstakingly aware of those numbers. I think that is what compels so many updates. Lots of 'likes' is more important than authenticity. This is why our young people post 'selfies' (a picture of oneself). If  200 people ‘like’ the photo they feel affirmed. Affirmation feels good, therefore he or she might be tempted to post more, reveal more and tell more in search of approval.

Our children must be taught to use social media responsibly by parents who understand technology. But before you go and open a Twitter account may I remind you social media is a two edged sword. I know because my teenage daughter accosted me after receiving a tweet from her friend about my driving habits! If I can see my kids' activity then they can certainly see mine as well. Remember that before you go posting, tweeting and driving around town. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!

(This article appears as a part of my local, weekly Practical Parenting series for The Review Atlas, a GateHouse Media Company.) If you enjoyed it I would be so grateful if you shared it, pinned it, tweeted it and I welcome your comments. Thanks for stopping by To Write a Better Story.

2 comments:

  1. My 15 1/2 yr old has been told not to post anything on her FB wall or Twitter account that she wouldn't willingly shout while standing on a table in the high school cafeteria. Of course, because she proved that she wasn't able to use technology responsibly, she lost it. She has no iPhone... although she is allowed to use her 11yr old brother's. She has no Facebook or Twitter.

    I've wanted to give it back a million times to make my life easier... (it would be nice to have that built-in iPhone GPS on her again!)but I know it is for the best! Hopefully she will get it back before she gets her license in January!

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  2. Kindall, you're a pretty social savvy mom too! It's a tough road isn't it? Our kids have had their fair share of 'lost technology' as well. Stick with your guns. Momma's gut is usually pretty good! Thanks for commenting!

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