Recently I have been reading a number of posts and and tweets about the invasive nature of technology. The debate has been very interesting. I particularly like this post by George Couros.
I love these discussions because it gets me thinking about my own context. As the father of two 11 year olds and an elementary prinicpal, social media is becoming a reality in my world. I am a believer in social media and believe that it is changing not only how we communicate, but also how we learn. Here are my initial musings around exposing kids to social media.
My basic premise is this. My kids will be exposed and will use Social Media with or without me, so I should get involved, model its proper use and learn about what’s happening.
My kids use Apple products, so I make sure everything goes through my Apple ID and my me.com email. While it does tend to fill up my inbox I know what my kids are doing. If they want to download an app, they have to come to me since I haven’t given them my password. It also allows me to track the messaging that is happening because all the texts that they send and receive come to me. I certainly don’t read every one of them, but I do check from time to time and see what they are talking about. My kids and their extended circle of friends are very responsible – I estimate about 94.7% of their texts are “hi”, “hi”, ‘hi” ad nauseum.
That said, there has been inappropriate use, where we had to intervene. My kids received a consequence, but more importantly it allowed us to have a real conversation about the importance of your image online. Since that initial incident, we have not had any other big ones, but we’ve had many opportunities to talk. It’s been good because I get to let them know where I stand and I still have a window into their middle school world.
They really like Instagram. I am lukewarm to it, but I follow them and they follow me. Again, this allows me to monitor what they are doing, but more importantly I get to model appropriate use. We post and comment on each others photos and enjoy creating our own #mullinhashtags. As the kids demonstrate responsibility, I give them more and let them experiment more. Recently I let them have Snapchat, but limit to who they “add” to close family friends. I have stayed away from Vine and even Twitter to this point, but my daughter is really angling to start her own YouTube channel. Interestingly, neither one of my kids has shown any interest in getting involved with Facebook – perhaps there are just too many other options that suit kids better.
When it comes down to it, our children (mine for sure) are going to grow up with Social Media, so as parents and educators we can either be proactive and teach them to use it appropriately or let them to figure it out on their own. I’m always going to err on the side of learning…even if most of it is alongside or just behind them.