It’s a great question! Surely there isn’t any harm in parents being friends with their teenagers on social media platforms? Generally, most teenagers will be more than willing to oblige their parent’s friend request on Facebook or even give you a peek of what they’re up to on Twitter and Instagram.
Whilst you might feel this way, you need to be aware that not all teenagers like the idea of having their parents act as hawks, swooping down to intercept any behaviour that might seem unruly or unacceptable. It's not because they want to be rebellious or act out against the pressures of society. Rather, social media is perceived by teenagers as a relatively personal domain where they seek sanctuary away from prying adult eyes. Yet others may find their parents just a little too embarrassing. You’ll find this particularly common in teenagers who are trying to establish an independent identity for themselves.
What should parents do? Should you give in and allow your children to complete and unsupervised freedom on social media, or should you insist on having a presence online and prevent your child from being too liberal? However, with some sensitivity, you should be able to connect with your kids in a positive way.
Give Your Kids Some Space
More often than not, teens are adamant about having their personal space. It is not necessarily a bad thing, so respect their desire for independence. While you may be curious about what your child is up to online, refrain from stalking or hounding them – just imagine your own parent doing that to you!
Just like us before, young people today have their identities and unique social circles. Although it is important to ensure that your teenager is keeping safe company, it is sometimes impossible to sniff out such situations until circumstances present themselves. If your child is sensible and responsible, trust in him or her to make sensible and responsible choices.
Aside from the danger online, parents can sometimes be dumbfounded by the content that’s so readily available on the internet. If necessary, let your children know how you feel about any inappropriate language or content uploaded to their accounts. Let them know that doing so may attract the attention of predators, and in some cases may even contravene Singaporean laws. But remember to do all of this offline! The last thing your teenager needs is a public, online dressing down from a parent.
It is only natural for parents to be concerned about what their children are posting online. However, instead of snooping around in the online sphere, agree to an open door policy with your teenager. Just as you had to keep your room doors open when your childhood friends used to come over and play, ensure that your teenager is upfront with their social media presence.
If necessary, talk to your children. Let them know that they can still be themselves online, but they need to use their independence responsibly.
Social media is a great way to stay connected with your children. However, you need to respect their privacy and their need for independence in order to be allowed into their online world. The best way to do this is to teach them to be careful and responsible about what they post.
Connect with your child on their networks; make use of social media to bring up points for conversation and to get a glimpse into their day to day activities.
Never humiliate or embarrass your child online - give them their space and privacy.
Respect and be open with your teenager. They are likely to reciprocate and will not feel like they have to keep you out of their social networks.