Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Working Mumma Talk: Social Media, to Friend or Not to Friend

Nothing makes you feel quite so old as when you catch yourself saying when I was your age... to your children. You vow never to be that kind of parent. Who wants their children to roll their eyes at you? Or worse, think you're out of touch. I thought that being a high school teacher I'd definitely be able to stay current.

Inevitably, though, it happens. You find yourself sitting around the dinner table hearing your children talk about some YouTuber or musician, realising you don't know what the hell they're referring to and succumbing to the idea that you are, in fact, out of touch. Believe me, this was last week for me.

The question remains how do you stay in touch with what your kids are up to? How can you possibly understand their world, complete with its challenges? The way kids socialize these days is entirely different from how we did. I have vivid memories of my mother standing at the bottom of the stairs and waving her hand in a wind up signal to let me know it was time to get off the phone. She usually had to do it more than once, so I remember her exasperated mum look, too. I'm sure I've got the same one now.

I also remember how well I'd developed my note folding skills so that I could be on the cutting edge of communication with my girlfriends. Forget that I'd actually be talking to them in class or in the hallways of school, writing notes opened up new very important topics we could discuss, in private. Like boys. And crushes.

Fast forward to today and it's maybe not as different as we'd think. Kids are still social. They talk about things they don't want others to know about and parents are still embarrassing. Only, it's the way they do these things that provides the challenge. Facebook? That's irrelevant for today's kids. As a mum of a teen, an almost teen, and a tween, I see kids are much more into communicating via Snapchat and Instagram. Heck, I'd venture to suggest that even Instagram is not for the younger demographic, either.

Several years back, I had my niece who is now 20 show me the finer points of Snapchat. It was complicated and frustrating, yet she navigated it all quite easily. She was so patient while she answered what probably seemed like really stupid questions. I don't really use it except for the filters, but I know enough to know what my kids are talking about.

And that's the part that's important. I'm not trying to get into all their business. They need to keep certain things private from their parents and know that we trust them. Of course, this means we have to spend the time to build that trust with them. When it comes to 'friending' or 'following' them on social media, it's important to keep that distinction clear. You aren't their friend. You're not trying to spy on them. You merely want to know enough to understand their world and keep them safe. I'm not one of those parents that scoffs at social media and stays away from it because I know for a fact that if I want to communicate with and understand my kids, I can't do that.

So yes, I'm 'friends' with my kids on social media. I 'follow' them. But I'm not friends with them nor do I follow them. They need me to be their parent.

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