The newest social media

in Essential Ramblings

So, you think you have Facebook covered, you’ve got an account, have figured out posting, and privacy, and talked to the kids about what is appropriate or not appropriate…kept them from getting an account…blah, blah…sooooo LAST year’s news.  Sorry to say, but there are SO many ways for these kids to get online, post things about themselves that you would NEVER believe they are saying and with NO filter at all.  It’s a constant battle people…requiring vigilance, attention, and yes, technical know-how.

I was at a school event recently and the principal said something that struck me — he said (and I paraphrase obviously), ‘people: technology and the internet is no longer a futuristic idea’.

It’s no longer something we can shake our heads and look at in wonderment, no longer can we say maybe technology will be a part of our kids lives, maybe we will have to adjust to it…it is HERE and it is here to stay.  Our children will always have access to the internet, whether we like it or not, they will always have computers to explore the world  —  they will write their papers on them, do their research on them, and will have access to information that we can only hope to protect them from, teach them to understand, and we MUST be aware of what is happening.

Whether your child has access to a computer, a laptop, an iPhone, iTouch, iPad, cell phone, tablet….it doesn’t matter any more — if they have technology in the home or access to yours, whether they are at school or the library or a friends’ house — they have access to a terrifying world of information, public access and more — and we can no longer pretend we can protect them from it.  We have to TEACH them how to use it.  They are on it whether you believe it or not, whether you give them permission or not, and whether you are looking or not.  I know I sound crazy, but the new reality is that as important it is to talk about sex or drugs, it’s equally important to talk about internet use and privacy issues.  So, the best you can do is to understand it yourself and stay TUNED in.  It is no longer an option for us as parents to sit by and say we don’t use ‘that stuff’ — don’t be afraid to be on line, to sign up, and to CHECK your kids’ phones, games, tablet, etc etc.  Look over their shoulders and ask questions.  What’s the coolest technology honey, what games are you playing, what are you taking pictures of these days, what are your friends playing?  It MATTERS and it matters a lot.  Colleges are looking at your kids’ e-footprints, interviews are being conducted on-line, and you better bet that bosses are checking out perspective hires internet use.  No matter how private you think you can make your kids’ profiles or phones, or whatever else, people know how to look and they are looking.

So today’s tutorial is on the newest tween fun — Instagram.  ANY iproduct allows you to download the app for free and post pictures to your account — both pictures you take, pictures from the internet and pictures from other people’s accounts.  You can like photos, share them, and comment on them.  You have friends lists, like lists, and followers.  It’s actually a very fun and cute app that on the outset looks totally innocent — a sort of facebook lite.  I joined (please follow me at essentialmom for some great new christmas ideas, etc).  BUT here’s what you need to realize…first of all, if your tween has an i-anything (including itouches), they are likely on this and you don’t know.  If you say no way, and you know my seventh grade kid, you are wrong.  Go check.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that it is a BAD thing, I am just saying again, PAY ATTENTION.  There are photos, comments, and ways that they can be mean, cruel, and not THINK.

1.  Get an account and “follow” your child on Instagram.  If they don’t like that, tough luck.  Take the phone away.

2.  Check that their account photos are “private”.  All this means is that people have to ask them first to “follow” them (ie to access their pictures), so weird stalkers/strangers can’t see their info (as easily).

3.  Go through their current “followers” and make sure that they know all of the people on their followers list.  There will likely be total strangers on their list.  Within moments of setting up an account my son was being “followed” by some folks that looked “unsavory”.

4.  Make sure to explain how the account works to your kids.  Show them on your account how, even IF they are marked as private, or if they are not friends with the other people, their comments are seen by EVERYONE.  So if my son’s friends comment on his photos I can see them even though I am not following them specifically.  I like to tell him “assume Mrs. Soandso is seeing every comment you write, because, like me, she is following Fred Soandso”.  It makes them think.

5.  You should absolutely have a phone “contract” with your child.  Outline what appropriate use is and what is not.  Have specific consequences for their actions.  Our son has lost phone privileges for infractions such as using the phone at unapproved hours, buying (even free) apps without getting permission, etc etc.  You make the rules and stick to them.  Having a phone or game or device is a PRIVILEGE, not a right.

6.  Most of all — check, check, and check their phones, devices, etc.  I am sure there are parents who would argue that my son’s privacy is being compromised.  It is.  He’s 12.  Maybe I will change my rules later, but at the moment, why in the world would I allow him to do anything, post anything, say anything to the world of the internet that he couldn’t honestly show me.  If he has a secret he wants to share with a friend, whisper it in her/his ear.  Don’t post it for the world to see.  There is no such thing as privacy on the internet.  Period.

See you on Instagram…and when we chase them off of there…I’ll let you know the next meeting spot. But please…don’t tell your kids that I was the snitch if I KNOW THEM, or they won’t let me figure out what the next spot is!