A Parent’s Perspective to Social Networking [Guest Post]

Katy, amazing mom blogger of the blog Adventures in Parenting and I are writing a series of posts on Social Networking as a part of my larger series to educate parents about what teens are doing online.  This is the second post of the series:

For Parents: Is Your Child Using YouTube? 

What are Kids Doing On Facebook, MySpace and Other Social Networking Sites?

…next to come: How to Approach Your Kids About Social Networking

So thank you Katy, for this great post! 

Would you agree that the computer and the internet are not going away? Would you also agree that usage of the computer will continue to grow, and our children will have more of their lives connected to the internet then even now?

social_network_id469214_size440.jpgAs much as we as parents may want to control the expansion of the usage of the computer, there is no way we can hold back the tide. Our children will easily be able to access more information, faster, and more efficiently as the computer industry grows. Literally the whole world will open up before them and vice versa as developers are working to grow this industry.

I know that the topic of monitoring the use of the computer is a huge one. For this post, I want to touch on just one aspect – our children’s participation on social networking sites.

Social networking sites such as MySpace and Bebo are expanding quickly. More features will be available on those sites, drawing more users and increasing user time spent on those sites. We’ve heard of the dangers of MySpace. So should we allow our children to go on MySpace?

My daughter was asked by her friends to view their MySpace sites. She then wanted to set up an account too, in order to comment on their site, share photos, and so forth. I was very hesitant in allowing her to do so. After thinking through this issue, I made the decision to let her do it. Here’s how I look at this issue of our children participating in networking sites:

1. Social networking is not going away. If it’s not MySpace, it is going to be Facebook, or Friendster, or any number of such sites widely known to our children.

2. As she grows older, she will not need my permission to open an account. As long as my daughter is living under my roof, I can monitor her activities on the computer. This is the opportunity I have to teach her what is proper and what is improper use of the site.

3. I can use MySpace as a teaching tool, an object lesson, to instill in her the values of decency and modesty. Instead of merely talking about the bad stuff that goes on in the world, I will point out why she should not click on stranger’s profiles and flashing banners. We can sit at the computer with the site open and explain why she should not accept people she does not know personally as “friends” to view her profile. I tell her why she needs to delete comments with cuss words.

Allowing my daughter a MySpace account also forces me to face the world that my children are going to be living in! So I logged onto MySpace and Facebook, got an account, and educated myself. I personally don’t see what the fun is in those sites. But then I am not a kid. My generation had the telephone. We chatted with our friends for hours, until our parents cut the line!  For our children’s generation, they have the internet. They get on social network sites. It cannot be ignored.

It is my responsibility as a parent to prepare my children to live as a responsible adult when they go out to face the world at age 18, and that includes teaching them proper values so they know how to navigate the computer.

How do we prepare our children for college? I teach my children how to do the laundry, how to handle their finances, and how to make Cup o’ Noodle. I also teach them to value education, to stay away from drinking, partying, and promiscuous behavior. They are taught to be considerate to their roommates, keep their rooms (relatively) clean, and walk back to their room with a friend when it’s late at night.

Now I am adding to that list how to engage in the online social networking arena.  Some parents have opted to disallowed their children to log on to MySpace. I agree that MySpace is too wide open, with easy access to all those things you don’t want your children to see. Even just entering the homepage showed me more than I wanted to see. I explained this to my daughter as well. Facebook seems to be much better with controlling who finds you and what is advertised. But as with anything, there will be abuses.

After the initial postings onto her account, my daughter lost interest in MySpace. She goes on it just to check messages from her friends. She finds that she has better things to do.  I think people who have too much free time on their hands with no goals in their lives are easily caught into excessive unproductive use of the internet. I am all for using the computer and the internet. Taking the time to understand our children, teaching them proper values, and challenging them with a bigger view of what they can do with their lives is more important now than ever.

Thanks Katy, be sure to check out her awesome blog

…and stay tuned for our next post on Social Networking Sites and how to protect your kids!

*Image courtesy of 49 things.com

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