Simple words such as “like,” “comment,” and “in a relationship,” have taken on new—and arguably more powerful meanings—with the explosion of social networking in the past several years. Have you stopped to teach your kids the value and power of their digital clicks?
The “Like” Button
In the past, if you “liked” pepperoni pizza or the Star Wars Trilogy, you shared those pieces of random information with friends in conversation. End of story. Today however, in the digital realm, these “likes” (or dislikes) have a whole new meaning. They publically display your alignment with a brand and the ideas and values behind that brand. A “like” automatically broadcasts your allegiances to hundreds, if not thousands, of friends (and advertisers) in the span of a few seconds. This could be a good thing. Or, if it’s done casually, it could backfire in terms of your privacy, safety, and reputation.
The “Relationship” Button
Likewise in the past, teens may have kept their high school relationship status confined to private notes exchanged between classes or lunchroom banter. Today, thanks to communication rockets like Facebook, a relationship status is available for public consumption (and comment) as it evolves in real time. This gives 21st century octane to the “in a relationship” button on Facebook.
The “Comment” button
Your comments on social networks take on a whole new life once you hit “post.” When you make a “comment” on a Facebook Fan Page that comment (and the related post) on that Fan Page shows up in the feeds of the friends who follow you on Facebook. They do not have to be fans of that page for it to show up in their feed—you need only interact with the Fan Page. This means your comment beneath a very risqué photo on a celebrity Fan Page can easily appear in Grandma’s friend feed . . . with the dicey photo attached. Yes, this is another timely conversation to have with your kids.
Indeed, it’s a whole new world where reputation management, personal safety, privacy, and relationship are all tied together—or unraveled—in a matter of clicks. The only rulebook your kids have to navigate the digital ropes. . . is you.
So what do these words mean in your family? Each family applies different values to these words and so each conversation will include various expectations.
Here are some questions to get you thinking and to spark some interesting dinner table conversation in your home:
- What kind of Fan Pages do my kids “like” and what values are tied to those pages? Do the movies, musicians, and brands my kids like align with our family? Is it okay for these brands to market to my children? Do these brands (or individual pages), or their followers create a safety risk to our family?
- Are privacy settings maxed on my family’s social platforms? Are Internet filters where we need them to be for maximum safety and privacy?
- What is the proper way to treat someone who you are dating online? What conversations should and should not take place in a digital setting? What kind of photo is appropriate to post?
- What is the proper way to end a dating relationship online? Is using the “relationship” button okay in our family? What are the guidelines?
- Could my kids’ online comments, photos, or posts negatively affect their future college enrollment, employment, or their current reputation?
Taking the time to discuss these seemingly casual, but powerful online actions with your children will no doubt enhance your dinnertime conversation. More importantly, it will help you bridge the digital divide with your children and may give you influence in the way they choose to click online.