Parent College Coach Tip #29: Do You Know Where Your Teens Are (on Social Media)?

social mediaSocial media—it’s a quandary. On the one hand it has become an excellent tool to communicate with family, friends and networking with businesses. On the other hand, it leaves a footprint of everything you do, share or say. Teens are especially vulnerable as they begin to think about college. And as their lives progress, the quantity and the quality of that footprint will affect future job prospects.

Are you friends with your teen on Facebook?

It may sound invasive but it’s a parenting effort that is becoming more and more popular. According to a recent survey, 46% of parents are friends with their kids on Facebook. Why would you do that? It allows you to monitor their friendships, see what they are talking about, and protect their privacy. One mother only allows her son to be friends with his “real life” friends. Whatever you decide about the boundaries, make them clear from the start. Explain to your teens why it’s necessary and remind them that just as you protect them in the world, it’s your responsibility to protect them online.

Does your teen understand “forever”?

Google never forgets. And I mean NEVER. Explain to your kids that whatever they post now will be in cyberspace forever. Even if they delete their pages or pictures, copies might still be accessible by search engines or from others who have saved copies to their computers.

Who are they friends with?

Keep a close eye on who your teen has on their friend list. Are they people you know? If not, ask them who they are. Remind them to NEVER accept any friend request from someone they don’t know. You never know what an unknown friend will do with your posts or photos.

Have you set the privacy settings?

Facebook recently rolled out a graphing feature that can potentially be misused and abused, especially with children. If you haven’t heard of it, you can see what it does in this article: Facebook graph search gets personal. Your teens are at risk for all kinds of picture mining and it just underscores the fact that information is out there (especially pictures) and if it’s posted it can be found.

If you aren’t social media familiar, you best get cracking. Your teens are. They tweet. They post. They upload photos to Instagram. They interact with everyone using social media tools. The tools are great for connecting but they can also be abused. As parents it’s our responsibility to stay on top of their activity.

Years ago, there was a public service announcement at 10pm every night (curfew time) and it said, “Do you know where your children are?” Parents have the same problem but the parameters are different. I’m asking you the same question, “Do you know where your children are (which sites your kids are active on and who they are talking to)?”

Author: Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer advises parents and students in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation at ParentsCountdowntoCollegeCoach.com. She is excited to share her knowledge with the readers of Smart College Visit.

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