Using Social Media to Help Our Kids Define Themselves

“How do you keep track of what your kids are doing on social media?”

Parents of tweens wrangle with the question of whether or not to set them up with a social media account and the bigger question of, “How do we keep track of what they are doing?”

The common answer I hear focuses on proactively monitoring.  But how could parents be even more proactive?

I attended a session at a Grace Hopper Conference a few years ago that focused on managing your personal brand in social media.  I learned a lot.  As I consider what I learned in the session, I think a lot of this could apply to our teenagers and we could turn their activity on social media into a huge opportunity for helping them discover who they are.

Tip #1:  Choose 5 words you’d use to describe yourself.  Post things that will encourage others to use those words about you.

What a WONDERFUL discussion to have with your teenager!  This is a great catalyst for pushing THEM to think about who THEY want to be.  What words would you want your children to use about themselves?  Smart, dependable, responsible, kind?  Needing to get through this exercise in order to get that social media account set up feels like a GREAT incentive and might set the stage for positive experiences on social media.

Tip #2:  Choose between 1 and 3 primary topics to focus on via your social media presence.

This is another great opportunity.  What are your kids interested in?  Do they HAVE any interest?  “Hanging out with my friends” doesn’t count.  Again, this is a great way to help our teenagers find constructive interests that help them grow into amazing young adults.  Football, baseball, math club, computer club, cheerleading, volunteer work, their dream college — there are so many wonderful things for our kids to focus on.  This exercise can help bring focus to how our kids are spending their time.

Tip #3:  Write down these 5 words and areas of focus where it’s easy to reference.  As you post content on social media, refer to this and see if you’re still on message.

As adults, by the time we were on social media, we already know who we are (for the most part).  When we hear horror stories of what some teenagers post on the internet, could this be a symptom of them just not knowing who they are and simply stumbling through the painful process of figuring it out?  And not understanding the huge negative consequences of posting and documenting those mistakes forever?  As parents, if we can help them understand this concept of a personal brand, can we help them avoid some of these mistakes and even more proactively figure out who they want to be.

Last, after having this conversation, as we continue to proactively monitor our kids’ activities on the internet, when we see something we don’t like, I imagine we could have a MUCH more constructive conversation with them.  Did that post fit in with the 5 words you want people to use to describe you?  Why?  Maybe as they are evolving, it’s time to revisit that list of words and revise it — intentionally.

I’m just starting down this road so I haven’t put any of these ideas into practice myself.  I’d love to hear comments from other parents on what they think of this idea so we can all help each other navigate this new world of raising teenagers who are out there on the internet.

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