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Social media etiquette for parents: Stay in ‘lurk only mode’

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A recent article on Essential Mums expresses serious concern about the blurring of the parent-child boundary in social media – as parents and kids can be linked into each other’s networks to receive status updates. Too much information can create confusion, as parents begin to interact in their child’s friend network and children gain access to potential issues in the parents’ world.

There is indeed a risk of the blurring of the parenting and child lanes in life, and still children need to have their on- line world supported by parents who set and maintain healthy boundary setting principles and rules for personal security. Conversations with law enforcement echo this concern that parents are confused about maintaining a “friend” status with their children.

Erin Ambrose, a Marriage and Family Therapist and instructor at William Jessup University in Rocklin, is concerned that the “slenderman” inspired attempted murder by two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls reinforces the need for parents to be connected to their children’s on-line experiences. “What I've heard/read in the news since this tragedy, points to a need for greater awareness and protection for our youth in regard to media,” she said.

Tips to be the parent in the social network:

  1. Role clarification. You are the guardian, not the friend. For this reason, establish that private is personal stuff you keep from the world, not from your parents and then respect your child’s privacy by not sharing things you learn about your child without their permission, judging and expressing your opinion. By the same token, explain that secrets harbor risk and so a good policy is to decide that if your mom cannot read or see what you are posting and be proud, it is better to not do it.
  2. In your child’s network stay in the “lurk only” mode. Your friends are not your child’s friends. Your purpose for being in your child’s friend network is to function like a utility, behind the scenes, for their personal security. You are there to observe and then offer wise counsel off line about any concerns (such as how to handle gossip, bullying and inappropriate photos).
  3. Establish a family-approved app list wherein every app is discussed and agreed upon before downloading. In this way it is possible to impart wisdom to your child by a) listening to their reasons for wanting to download an app, and b) helping them to make good decisions about which apps will make their life better and why.