Can I tell you something?
The word ‘snapchat’ scares the living daylights out of me.
What scares me about Snapchat—about all social media, since I’m baring my soul today—is that there are applications that kids think of that I don’t. The two Harvard grads who created Snapchat didn’t explicitly create a product to share racy pictures, though many people use Snapchat for that very reason. What happens when kids have access to technology that allows them to broadcast to and interact with the world before they understand that world is what scares me.
Let that last sentence sink in for a minute. When we give our kids, our students, access to these tools we’re asking that they use the responsibly. Do they even know what that means?
I’d venture to guess that they don’t always understand how their digital activity impacts their everyday life. That’s why it’s so vital that we stay in their digital business. Snapchat at dinner? No, because that’s family time and they need good, old fashioned face time with family instead of talking through a screen. Snapchat at other times? Maybe, but only if I am looking over your shoulder.
Setting those expectations at the onset is the easiest way to keep a clear line of communication open with kids. It’s almost like talking about the birds and the bees; they squirm and they giggle, but they listen. The information is vital and they’re curious. They rely on you to be honest and open; if you’re not, they search for answers elsewhere.
Start at the beginning, and listen more than you speak. Ask open ended questions; instead of ‘do you and your friends use Snapchat?’ say ’tell me about Snapchat.’ Talk while you’re in the car instead of when you’re sitting across from each other at dinner. Don’t always offer judgment or advice when they talk about their social media activity (or their friends’ activity). Become a trusted resource.
Think about having a contract, too. A printed contract that you’ve both read, discussed, and signed. Make sure they understand what the consequences are if they violate the contract, and honor the commitment you make to them.
Whichever platform your kids pick, learn more about it before talking with them. Set up a google alert to have news sent to your account so you’re reminded to read up. Create a Twitter list of resources you trust so that new info is easy for you to find. Engage in conversation with other parents and listen to their experiences about social media in their respective families.
Remember that digital communication is still communication—it takes more than one party. Make sure that you’re one of those parties.
A few resources to learn more: