Social media: Parents unconcerned by Facebook, Twitter
A new survey says 83 percent of parents believe social media benefits kids more than it harms them.
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Tiffany Lynch, a mother of four in Mission Hills, Kan., has gotten used to her children complaining that life isn’t fair.Skip to next paragraph
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Lynch ruled out Facebook for her children until they hit high school. Internet browsing is restricted to G-rated sites and cut off altogether after 9 p.m. and on Sundays. Cell phones cannot charge overnight in the bedroom. That keeps her children from texting in the middle of the night.
“I feel like I’m alone,” she said. “There aren’t many people that have a plan like this in place.”
The former teacher didn’t come to her decisions lightly. Lynch enjoys sharing pictures on Facebook and agrees that there are clear benefits to the site. But she also wonders when children are mature enough to understand the impact of a snarky status update or a mean-spirited Tweet.
Her policy doesn’t go over well with her 13- or 12- year-old, both of whom have friends on Facebook despite the age minimum.
“Call your friends,” she tells them. “Pick up the phone. Invite them over. You don’t need Facebook.”
Parents often falsely assume that schools monitor their child’s social media accounts daily.
“With nearly 29,000 students,” said Olathe, Kan., School District spokeswoman Maggie Kolb, “that would be nearly impossible.”
Parents seeking guidance online often reach out to school officials for help first. Many districts have responded with parent education classes.
In Olathe, a team of experts made about 40 presentations last year about online bullying, integrity and safety.
Olathe Assistant Superintendent Erin Dugan wasn’t surprised to hear parents think the benefits of social media outweigh the risks. Social media have clear upsides. The pitfalls are still being assessed, she said.
“Our biggest message to parents is talk to us, keep us informed, but actively supervise your children,” Dugan said.
Parents have been surprised to learn that school districts are greatly limited in how they can respond to complaints. Often, the offending Tweet or Facebook post happens outside school. The district will get involved if a threat is made that could disrupt or directly impact the school day.
But unkind words? Or malicious posts from classmates?
That’s up to parents. Districts throughout the city also urge parents to report criminal activity directly to police.
For Lynch, the nasty behavior only reinforces her decision.
Advice from pediatricians backs up her policies, but there’s no true guidebook to get her through.
“When you decide to make a stand against something that is against the cultural norm,” she said, “it’s a daily battle.”
Advice from Children’s Mercy
Initiate the discussion about social media. Garner their opinions about the news of the day and share your experiences. Don’t shut them down if they talk about negative experiences.
Be a good role model to help them make good decisions.
Create technology-free zones at the dinner table and elsewhere. Have a no-screen policy in a child’s bedroom to promote restorative sleep.
Encourage creativity that doesn’t involve technology. If you want them to go outside on a nice day, suggest a bike ride or walk together.
Don’t rely on children to help you navigate social media so you can’t be tricked later.
Parents should always review their child’s online history, text messages, emails and more. Take away phones or computers if they don’t comply.
Start with limited access to the Internet and make them earn your trust.
Create clear consequences for breaking stipulated rules. Doctors suggest using a signed contract to spell out the rules.