If Jennifer Soucheray had a Twitter handle, it probably would be something clever like @JentheMamaHen or @MrsSouchRocks. But this third-grade teacher and mom of three teens doesn’t have a Twitter account.
But her three kids do. So, she and her husband, Paul, have had to find ways to monitor their social media use without being, “like, totes uncool.”
I asked Soucheray, along with a few others, to share a few of their tips and best practices when it comes to kids and social media. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Use social media to help your kids develop self-control habits
Whether it’s texting, tweeting or using Facebook these parents tout the benefits of putting limits in place early. According to the Soucheray household, texting and Twitter are where it’s at. Pew Research backs this up: teen Twitter use is at 24 percent – a significant jump from 16 percent in 2011.
“We know their phones are lifelines to their friends,” Soucheray said. “They need these tools otherwise they’ll be ostracized. But as parents you have to develop parameters for what’s acceptable use.”
One way these parents have put boundaries in place? All devices are turned in to Mom and Dad before bedtime.
2. Validate kids every day, offline
Soucheray, who taught middle school for 12 years, says it’s extremely important to validate your kids every day. She said that’s one reason why Facebook and other social media tools are so popular – because we’re all looking to be validated. (Author’s note: Not going to lie; there have been times that I’ve fallen into this trap and checked in on a status update or picture I posted to see how many “likes” it’s received. And when the number is higher or the comments are positive, for some reason, I feel a little better.)
“If a kid doesn’t hear she’s pretty or smart by someone who cares about her, she’s going to look for that somewhere else,” Soucheray said.
Dr. Robyn Silverman, a child-teen development specialist and body-image expert agrees.
“Teens are defining themselves during adolescence,” she writes on her blog. “They are figuring out where they fit into their social world and hoping that others look at them favorably.”
Soucheray and Silverman say it’s important to talk about your kids’ true gifts.
“Make sure your children understand that their strengths – such as their kind heart, conscious nature or musical ability – are recognized,” Silverman said, “and really make a difference.”
3. Use the tools for good