It’s natural to talk with your children when you see them out in public. It’s a biological reaction to admire their talents, praise them publicly, and even wrangle their wayward behavior when it starts to stir.
Just don’t do it online.
Parents are wise online if they curb what comes naturally and consider exercising a new set of rules. (Note, the chosen word “curb” over the word “forget.”) This list only pertains to the parent that is determined to maintain a degree of communication (and influence) with their child online.
This list does not assume any degree of ease. In fact, it may go against every instinct you have as a parent, which may cause some emotional and even physical kicking and screaming to surface. But this is a new world, with new rules and frankly, we’ve got to grow with the technology (and its cultural demands) or go take a seat on the sidelines and relinquish all influence. Personally, I refuse to do the latter.
Some of these suggestions go without saying and will elicit a big “duh” from some parents. However, some parents are absolutely clueless that what they are doing online is actually alienating their kids. (I know because I see you doing it every day online!)
5 Things Parents Should Stop Doing Online (Now):
1. Fighting your child’s battles. Nothing embarrasses a tween or teen more than mom or dad stepping in to rescue them from a conflict with peers. If they are being bullied (or even just insulted) online, teach them what to do (handle in a direct message). Do not jump online and try to confront the bully. If it’s a more serious issue, handle things offline between parents. Never let the drama play out on stage.
2. Friending or following your child’s friends. There really isn’t a valid reason to friend your kids’ friends on Facebook or follow them on other platforms. My personal rule is if one of my kids’ friends initiates the friend request, I will accept it if they are in our immediate social circle.
3. Commenting on/liking posts. It only took my son deleting a few of my oh-so-carefully-crafted comments before I got the clue that I should keep on scrolling . . . right on past his posts no matter how badly I wanted to give my two cents. Put yourself in your child’s shoes—it’s hard to banter with your friends (and be viewed as clever, wise or cool) when your mom or dad jumps in and breaks your flow. A mom comment is like erecting a skyscraper in your kid’s park. It can really ruin the view. Think about it this way: If Facebook had an “awkward” button, your child would probably click it every time you commented on his page.
4. Posting anything to your child’s wall. You may want your child to learn to save money but posting that Suzie Orman or Dave Ramsey blog post on her wall is NOT going to get her any closer to the goal. This applies to job leads, inspiring quotes, mushy notes, or anything else that you could just as easily say in person. Lay the article on her bed or send her an email or text instead. Refrain from liking her Instagrams, retweeting her or even giving her the coveted thumbs up—no matter how proud you may be of her evolving intellect or maturity. As my daughter politely put it, when parents post on their kids’ walls, “it’s just creepy.”
5. Sharenting. What is sharenting? It’s a combo of parenting and sharing. It’s when parents share waaaayyy too many of their kids’ private moments online—like the toddler-in-the-bathtub or underwear photos. The digital world has slowly diluted the power of good old-fashioned common sense. Parents: no one wants to see these photos, trust me. Keep them in the family album and off of Facebook. Remember, those photos are not private and can circulate anywhere outside your Instagram, blog, Twitter or Facebook community.
Also, keep yourself in check when sharing any kind of personal information about your children. Your kids may not appreciate reading that you “spent a great day at the movies watching action flicks and helping son Jake forget all about his broken heart” or asking “am I the only one who’s car is magically on empty at the end of every day without me even driving it? #Ugh #teenagers.”
This kind of sharenting publicly can slowly erode trust between you and your child—whether or not your child voices their feelings to you or not.