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What Parents Must Know about Kids and Social Media

February 22nd, 2010

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I usually speak on social media as it relates to marketing, but I often run into parents who ask me how they should handle social media as it relates to their kids. So, I wanted to share a few tips. Now, I am not a parenting expert. I don’t have kids yet (unless you count Snoopy the dog). But, I do know a fair amount about social media. And, high school isn’t (yet) a distant memory. Here is what I think parents MUST know about social media.

1) Admission Counselors are Looking. Heck – camp counselors are looking! I know employers are looking – I speak to them on a regular basis. You have to explain to your kids that their status updates are not for their friends’ eyes only. You have to teach them that a diary is personal. The internet is not. Kids these days (for the most part) are smart. They know perception matters. They just don’t know WHO is accessing their profile. And, don’t let them comfort you with a “it’s private mom!” Privacy settings on social networking sites are notorious for glitches. And, remember the six degrees to Kevin Bacon joke? It still applies. More so now than ever before. The list of “mutual friends” who can access your child’s information is a mile long.

2) Blocking is Not Going to Help. I’ve seen a few parents (and employers) go this route. Just block it! Can you? Sure. Do I think it will help? No. Computer access is everywhere.  You can only block so much, and the forbidden is a lot more tempting. It is much better to set boundaries and regulations. Then, monitor usage.

3) Talk about the Tweeting Birds and the Bees. Sort of. Remember how you had to have that discussion with your kids? You have to have this one too. What’s appropriate on social media sites and what isn’t? How can they still be “cool” and use their Facebook profile proactively? What’s Twitter REALLY good for?

4) Teach your Kids about Personal Branding. Personal Branding is not taught in schools. It should be taught, but it isn’t. You have to teach your kids that. How many jobs will your child hold in his or her lifetime? Just look at how many you’ve held. You had to learn about managing your reputation online. Your kids have to learn to build their reputation – offline and online. Teach them that. The most powerful skill you can teach them is authentic personal branding.

5) It is not Bad Etiquette to Manage your Profile. It goes like this – “My friends tagged me in the note. And, I don’t like it, but I don’t want to offend them by untagging myself.”  Peer pressure just went to a whole new level. It is not bad etiquette to un-tag yourself from notes, pictures, or essentially anything that you don’t agree with. It isn’t bad to request someone to completely remove your pictures if you don’t want them there. As adults, we can feel uncomfortable doing this. For kids, its even harder because they risk looking “uncool” with their friends. But, you can empower them to take full responsibility and act proactively.

Image Credit -http://geekandpoke.typepad.com/geekandpoke/2008/04/20-savvy-kids-1.html

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