As parents we would like to think we know what our kids are doing and that they are behaving, socialising and conducting themselves with the morals and values we are trying to teach them as they grow up. Yet lately there has been a lot of press relating to teenagers and young adults being influenced by many different factors in society. Some of these influences involve social media, the internet, beliefs that they may not have grown up with and many other influences for a variety of reasons. So I ask you the question, do you really know what your child is doing?
I know many of you who are reading this may have young children and say ‘of course I do!’ Great, but what happens as they get older and start to be influenced by factors outside the home; their peers, the internet, social media and so on? Now is the time to start to have an open dialogue with your children. It might be as simple as asking them how their day was at school. We have all asked that question and may have gotten a one worded answer, on a good day, or a grunt! I tend to ask that question again over dinner when they have had a chance to wind down and relax and we are talking about our days. My kids now ask me how my day was and pick up pretty quickly what type of day I have had by my responses and if I have any patience left! I always have something positive to say and let them know I appreciate that they have asked me. Developing that dialogue is so important because when your child isn’t having a great time of it; you can ‘read’ them so to speak and know there is something going on.
I am under immense pressure from my eldest 11 year old to allow her to have Instagram. We have had many open discussions as to why I won’t allow it and when I do eventually let her, (she believes it will be when she turns 18) that I will ‘follow’ her. As a result of these discussions, I realised I had no idea how to use Instagram so I opened up my own account to learn how to use it and see what the fuss is all about. I have always said to try and be one step ahead of your children, and the social media and internet they access so you have some idea of what is going on. Once I opened my Instagram account and made my way around, I was astonished to find many of my daughter’s friends who have accounts! Light bulb moment, this is why I am being hounded. I am following her friends because they do not have their privacy settings set to private so I was easily able to ‘follow’ them; but even more astounding was I found my daughter’s picture on Instagram!
This was through no fault of her own, but because her friends have innocently posted pictures of themselves. My user name does not identify me nor does my profile picture, so they have no clue I am on there and neither does my daughter. After talking to another mum, she asked me what Instagram was and how it worked. I told her and she said there is no way my daughter is having that.
Sadly, her daughter does have it and she is none the wiser. We need to empower ourselves as parents and learn about the tools our kids are using, but also talk to them, understand when they seem moody, short tempered or teary that something might be bothering them. Are they spending a lot of time in their room, isolating themselves from the rest of the family and their friends? Yes, I do read my daughter’s Imessages and she is fully aware that I do.
There is nothing wrong with checking message sites such as Snap Chat, KIK and following your kids on different types of social media. Remember, they are children and although they think they are old enough to handle what is’ typed and liked’ on social media, they aren’t. We have strict rules: no electronic devices in the bedrooms and at night they are switched off completely and put in the kitchen. Start these rules early and when they start to be broken for whatever reason, there will be something going on. These are triggers for us as parents to act on and support them.
Keep talking to your children and let them know you trust them and support them no matter what. Dialogue is so important because you never want to find yourself in the position of saying, I didn’t know.