For many across the country, the school year is just getting underway. We parents will load our kids up with all the necessary supplies—except that one specific brand of glue on the list that I swear does not exist—and send them on their way. We will fill out forms and begin to share our experience and knowledge with them regarding subjects such as algebra, biology, literature, and more.
But there is one subject that we parents need to study up on more—and that is social media.
An Ever-Changing Landscape
As a parent in this tech-savvy world and a professional in the publishing/media industry, I pride myself on keeping up with the various forms of social media. My husband, Mark, and I have educated ourselves and very clearly laid out the rules for our kids to follow. Both of us have accounts on all the social media outlets and have connected with our kids on them. We try our best to keep up with the latest apps and sites that endlessly seem to pop up.
So I was feeling pretty confident when I recently came across an article about what parents need to know about their kids’ social media behavior. The article included a checklist and pertinent information for parents in order to make sure they were aware of the social media landscape. I perused the list, feeling sure in my knowledge.
Facebook and Instagram—check. Twitter, Snapchat, and Tumblr—check. YouTube—got it. Finstagram—wait, what? Where did that one come from? How did I not know about this? Obviously, it must have just come about and slid under my watchful radar. I asked my 13-year-old daughter, Riley, and her friend if they knew what it was. Of course they did. In fact, they looked at me as if they couldn’t believe I didn’t.
Finstagram—Finsta, for short—is an Instagram account that people create in order to post things for only close friends to see, they explained. It’s the less-polished side of Instagram—an app that is typically all about presenting the perfect picture and image.
The sudden realization that I wasn’t completely on top of the game shook me.
Back to School
Now, I’m not naive. I know that I cannot possibly keep track of all of my kids’ online activities. Maddie, my oldest, is forging her own path as an adult. I couldn’t track her if I wanted to. Alex, my next in line, devotes the bulk of his social media time to gaming with his friends. I have neither time for nor interest in that world.
Riley mostly uses social media for communication with her friends. And our 9-year-old daughter, Kacey, likes to watch silly videos on YouTube and play games on Roblox. Despite that realization, though, what I can do is keep learning and asking questions.
After the whole Finstagram incident, Mark and I had a good conversation with the kids about various aspects of social media. They brought me up to speed on a lot of things I was unaware of—though I’m sure those will have all changed by the time this goes to print. And each kid seemed genuinely engaged in the conversation. I mean, after all, who wouldn’t like to inform his or her parents that they don’t know things?
The reality is that our kids do know more than most of us when it comes to social media. With that in mind, the best Mark and I—as well as all parents—can do is to try to keep informed and involved. Sometimes in life we have to take on the role of teacher based on our experiences and knowledge. Other times, though, we have to admit that we are not as educated about something as we would like to be. In those situations, it’s best if we sit back, listen, and learn. When it comes to this subject, our kids might just be our best teachers.