Every time I present Tech-Savvy Parenting at schools I ask the principal what issues they are experiencing that need to be addressed. The trend that I am noticing is that I am increasingly being asked to encourage parents to curb their own behaviour online because they are setting a poor example for their children!
Outting their own children on social media
This where parents vent their frustrations with their own children on social media. Whether they name them or not, their children know it’s about them and so do all their parent’s followers. If you are having a problem with your child, you need to deal with it in the real world and not on a social media platform. As I say to the children, when they are feeling emotional, angry, upset or going through the hormonal highs and lows of puberty, stay off social media and find a real shoulder to cry on. If you are outting your child on social media, you are out of control.
Being nasty to other parents on instant messaging groups and social media
I talk a lot to learners about not texting something they wouldn’t say to someone’s face in the real world. They need to be as congruent as possible in the online and offline world. The same rule applies to parents. Do unto others as you would have done unto you, as the saying goes. And yet, we are seeing parents attacking each other on Whatsapp, sharing inappropriate images on social media of each other that have mistakenly found their way onto the wrong Whatsapp group, instead of going to the source and helping to protect each other. (Yes, of course the first mother shouldn’t have posted a compromising picture of herself to the wrong Whatsapp group, but what about the mother who saw fit to post said inappropriate picture on social media which has gone viral in a big, big way?)
So, naming, shaming and blaming is going on between parents who are taking advantage of each other’s mistakes, causing enormous public embarrassment. I warn our teens against using anonymous messaging apps which really amount to cyberbullying platforms, but parents are doing the cyberbullying on platforms that aren’t even anonymous! Social media is being used by parents to access their dark side. What kind of example is this to their children?
Abusing school Whatsapp groups
Schools are creating Whatsapp and Facebook groups for parents when the children go on camps and tours. These are intended for parents to be able to see what is going on, providing a little window into their child’s world that parents otherwise wouldn’t see. Unfortunately, some of these groups are turning into whinge sessions with derogatory commentary about the school, other children and even other parents.
One of the disadvantages of social media and seeing pictures or comments about a single moment in time, is that messages can be taken out of context and create misunderstanding when one doesn’t have the whole picture. Be careful about making judgements, especially judgements on public platforms, when you don’t have all the facts. Once again, rather go to the source in the real world and get your facts straight.
Teaching our children to be tech-savvy starts with:
- Good communication in the real world between parents and their children – that includes being aware of how much time you are on a cellphone when you are with your children
- Modelling healthy communication habits and relationship skills
- Valuing relationships and being kind, considerate and respectful
- Not getting off on someone else’s misfortune but rather using it constructively as a teachable moment
- If you need to offload, do so in the real world
- Don’t be a bystander, be an upstander
Remember that your children are watching you. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. In real life we sometimes need to hold our tongue and keep our thoughts to ourselves. The same goes for social media – don’t be reactive. More than count to ten, sometimes you need to sleep on something before you act on it, if at all.
As I say to the children in my digital safety workshops: you need to think before you post (about yourself and others), and check yourself before you wreck yourself.