Recently, many people chimed in about the “Laptop Shooting Dad‘s” reaction to his 15-year-old daughter’s Facebook posts. Not only is the subject of social media parenting popular, but his stunt has surpassed 30 million views on YouTube.
While it’s evident that we live in a country of extremes — parents who use guns to make a point vs. parents that find this version of parenting horrific — the bottom line is that we all struggle to find the right balance when helping our kids through their tumultuous teen years.
During a recent #theonlinemom Twitter chat, nearly 400 parents weighed in with what they believed to be fitting alternatives to shooting nine bullets through a laptop. For instance:
- Donate the laptop to a needy school.
- Remove her privileges, like cellphone or allowance.
- Impose an extended grounding.
- Ask the 15-year-old to “clean the cleaning lady’s home.”
So what to do?
Fact #1: Parenting experts agree that a child who feels emotionally and intellectually connected to her parents is likely to make better decisions during puberty and adulthood.
Fact #2: 90% of teens with a social networking account have one on Facebook, and 7.5 million kids under 13 are using Facebook to connect and share experiences with friends and family.
Conclusion: Embrace the platform.
Here are a few useful tips to keep in mind, whether your child is just getting started or is already a Facebook power user.
- Jump in. If your teen is an avid user and you are not familiar with Facebook, open an account yourself and become familiar with the environment. Ask your teen to help you, to teach you the basics and the settings and to explain why she likes to use Facebook. Remind your teen you’ll be showing her how to drive a car soon — there’s a great quid pro quo!
- Understand the importance of the platform. Facebook is not just a teen fad; it has also become an essential business tool. Your kids will need to be extremely savvy using and navigating social networks to stay competitive in the new economy.
- Do not post on her wall. If she decides she’s going to friend you, refrain from any comments, offline or online. Do not comment to her friends when they pop by the house. Be respectful of the online space she has created with her friends.
- Learn to connect with friends and family. If your teen sees that you are genuinely using Facebook as a way to connect with others, she will be impressed and proud of your ability to embrace a new medium. And believe me, you might just enjoy it!
- Keep up. Facebook makes constant changes to settings, formats and even basic design, so stay involved and be aware of the changes. Embrace new apps by discussing them with your child. She will be able to relate to you on this level too.
- Talk about it. Talk about Facebook at dinner — it makes for a great conversation. For instance, discuss how Facebook is as big as the third largest country in the world; how different people use it; what constitutes a friend; the FarmVille and Mafia Wars mania; the company’s IPO; where it may be headed, etc.
As your child’s parent, only you can provide perspective that he or she will learn to trust over the years. Treat Facebook as a new environment you can both explore together.
Do you have other tips to share? Add to the conversation in the comments below.