Monitoring kids' social media activity doesn't make you this



This post originally appeared on @Medium

If you're raising kids and have ever hoped you handled something the right way or made the right parenting decision, you're not alone. These thoughts might surface multiple times a week, and if you're like me, you realize your magician and troubleshooting skills are rapidly improving as you gain new perspective on the fly about life, your kids, and you.

“Do this” “Don’t do that” “You have to clean your room before you go.” “Let’s go there this weekend.” “Will their parents be home?” “If you see this on the floor, please pick it up!” “You can’t watch that.” “Who’s going with you?” “You can’t drive with friends in the car yet.” “How was your day?” “Want to run here with me?”

We say these things instinctively because we're being ourselves. How we parent and the decisions we make draw from how we were raised, adults we grew up around, things we've learned from other parents -- or plain old experience because we’ve already been there.

Yet, each of us have those moments where we think to ourselves about the parents we are and want to be -- or the parent we don't want to be. Few things bring that more into question than when your kids show interest in using social media or getting mobile devices.


If you’ve ever stressed about any of these questions, there’s no right or wrong. You’ve taken the most important step - you’re an engaged parent thinking about your child’s digital responsibility.

For 17 years, “communicator” has been associated with my career title and responsibilities in some fashion. 10 years into it I got the promotion many people dream about - albeit at home. I added mom to my title. My journey continued as a “working mom,” helping brands understand digital and emerging media, and translating consumer behavior and interests into opportunities. After many years of connecting ideas with companies, and companies with people like you and me, that “promotion to mom” I received (twice, to be exact) handed me a new lens and started to shed a different light on my favorite subject matter -- specifically the dynamics and impact of digital and social media on people. On families. On individuals. So I turned the tables.

Upon coming together with other like-minded parents and business pros at a startup called DijiWise, we took what we knew about business, media -- and parenting, and channeled it into an effort to encourage digital responsibility.

Diving into the topic of digital responsibility with communities of parents, pre-teens, teenagers, and even millennials, I’ve quickly learned people are as opinionated and protective about their views of digital media, social media, and what’s considered “private” as they are about politics and religion. Especially when it comes to the topic of parents wanting to know what their kids are doing on social media.

For some families, checking social media activity is a black and white issue - you do or you don’t, and that’s how it goes. No if, and’s or but’s about the decision (even if the kid doesn’t like it). Some moms and dads don’t stay connected to their kids’ social media activity because they don’t want to be “that type of parent.” Some parents do, because that’s simply part of the ground rules they lay in their house when their child gets a phone or tablet. Others want to - but are worried about being “that type of parent.”

What type of parent is that?

Here are 10 things monitoring your kids’ social media doesn’t make you:

  1. An overbearing parent. Whether you’re raising teenagers, pre-teens or grade schoolers, an informed parent who’s in the loop in case your kid needs a little guidance online once in awhile, doesn’t mean you’re overbearing.

  2. A control freak. Let’s be honest - even the biggest control freaks among us learned long ago that there are some things you have to let go of or you’ll drive yourself crazy.

  3. Old school. Just plain inaccurate because social media wasn’t around when we were growing up. But really, having relationships with your kids is the same as it was growing up, it just looks different these days. Whether you’re chatting face-to-face or staying connected with them online, it’s parenting. (And what’s wrong with old-school!?)

  4. A helicopter parent. What this means differs parent to parent, but basically, you know where your kids are, what they’re doing, and aren’t far away - physically or figuratively. But one thing’s for sure - I don’t know many parents who ever think, “Shoot, wish I wasn’t there to help them through that,” or “Boy, too bad I was there to encourage them to do something differently.”

  5. Bossy. Well, maybe you have your moments. But, hey. It’s your house. You’re raising kids, not BFFs. It’s okay to be the boss.

  6. Untrusting. In fact, the complete opposite. When you give your child a smartphone or tablet, you’re giving them access to the world in the palm of their hand. That’s a big symbol of trust. Like manners at a friend’s house, dance, school or restaurant, digital media and social media are extensions of environments where parents can put faith in how you’ve raised your kids to-date. And just like learning to ride a bike or getting their driver’s license, you’ll always be there to help keep them safe and enjoy the ride.

  7. A stalker. Remember keeping a close eye on them during all those trips to the playground? Wondering what friends and parents will be somewhere when you drop them off? Watching their recitals, being there for games, and riding along as they prep for their driver’s test? Ever think you were a stalker then? All good. Don’t worry.

  8. Nosy. Sure there may become a time where your kids don’t want your nose into everything they’re doing, everything their friends are posting or every message they get. Teens need privacy. However, setting the stage early - and leading by example -  will help them make better choices about their online behavior. Plus, being in the know helps you start conversations with your kids about their everyday life - something that gets harder to do as they get more involved in other activities and spend more time away from home.

  9. Overprotective. In fact, it means you understand how the world works and the good and the bad that can come with digital media. It’s not much different than to wanting to protect our kids from bee stings, broken bones, bad friends or dangerous situations. Staying connected to their social media activity is a bit of parental instinct, and protects your kids while allowing your them to be themselves and possibly trip or fail, and learn from it.

  10. Chicken Little. The sky is falling! Everything that could go wrong when your child uses social media has probably crossed your mind, right? Embarrassing themselves, becoming sedentary, meeting a predator, talking to strangers, sexting, seeing something you’re not ready for them to see yet, being on the receiving or giving end of bullying, they’ll never listen to you again...the list is endless. But the sky isn't falling when your kids use social media. In fact, being aware of their activity on social helps you minimize these things from happening - and places you there to act or help when you need to.

What monitoring your kids social media DOES make you is an involved parent who’s connected with their kids in a modern and special way -- one that’s important in this era. It also opens the door to endless opportunities to start conversations.

Let’s look at this from the wisdom of an expert. An experienced police detective once told of how time and time again people tell him they have a gut feeling about things, and most of the times, through evidence (and the reason he’s on the case in the first place), their gut feelings prove to be right.

He went on to explain we have gut feelings and doubt them, when in fact, we should follow them.

The correlation to being a parent and a detective isn’t intentional. That’s not the point. It’s what we do with our gut feelings that is. It’s pretty simple - we should worry less about a label someone might give us for a choice we make, and follow our guts if we think we should do something that’s right for our kids. Staying connected to your kids’ social media activity isn’t complicated, unless we allow it to be.

Your head and heart have gotten you this far as a parent. Let’s keep using them, and your kids - and you - will do great. And what better type of parent is there than that?

Know someone like this? Share this with a spouse, friend or parent you think could use your vote of support, a little encouragement, or a good read to brighten their day.