Today, our families use digital technology in every aspect of our lives – from learning and socializing, to gaming and shopping! The broad access and use of technology we enjoy is awesome – and opens so many new opportunities for so many students and parents alike. I mean, I work from home because of the internet and technology! But like any aspect of life, there are things we need to know to make positive, safe decisions about what to share online. As the mother of a teen girl, I have many conversations with her about online safety and sharing. My 7 year old son is getting interested in mobile phones and using the internet and I am also concerned about his sharing too much online. I think it is so important for parents to teach their kids about online safety but with the technology changing so fast, I think parents are sometimes challenged to keep up. That's why I love the new #ShareAwesome program, a digital advocacy campaign sponsored by National PTA and LifeLock.
#ShareAwesome has a positive focus, to share memorable, but appropriate moments online. We can do this by modeling how to share in front of our kids and also talking to them about what is and what isn't appropriate to share. The positive decisions we teach them to make online can also apply to life offline. We listen to the radio, follow sites like Buzzfeed, and my teen loves to cruise tumblr – every single one of those pieces of technology is filled with teachable moments for our kids – from what they should share to what they shouldn't.
Since my daughter uses social media, we monitor her activity by following her on all social media. She also knows that she cannot accept friend requests from adults. Last week, a male volunteer in our Girl Scout Council sent my daughter a friend request on Facebook. She came to me and told me that she refused the request because it was not appropriate. It was a proud mom moment! She thought about why this person would have sent her a friend request and decided it was probably so he could send her information about Girl Scout events. However, she already gets that information from her leader and from her mom (me) so it was not necessary to allow him access to her profile. It's that discerning attitude that we want in our kids, to think critically about who they talk to online, who they let into their lives, and what they post. The #ShareAwesome campaign seeks to build an understanding among parents and students that no matter the device, the app or the networking site – the skills we need to be safe and positive online are similar to what you need offline. Just as I would not expect my daughter to hang out with an adult male in person, I would not expect her to hang out with him online.
We need to be respectful online at all times, just as in the office – we never know who is listening or reading. And the benefit of online is that we DON'T have to answer anything right away or reply. We can actually take a step back, compose ourselves, and reply in a mature, constructive, supportive way rather than react emotionally to things. The experience from making online replies in that matter can help us to be calmer in real life situations that are similar – I want my daughter to definitely learn these lessons and apply them both to her online presence and her in person interactions. This podcast by Design Sponge about dealing with negativity online has some great tips for just dealing with people online and in-person in general. You bet we all listened to this one together!
We show our daughter what to share by our patterns of sharing. A fun photo of the family together. A cute video of our cats playing. Maybe a selfie of a new hair style or outfit. As the kids watch us, they learn what is appropriate for posting online, as you can see from the mix of Instagram pics from my account and my daughter's account here. We're not perfect but there are lots of teachable moments and we use them to teach. And by omission, the kids also learn what is inappropriate. You'll almost never see me take a bathroom selfie and the few times I did, I was fully clothed. I talk about these things with the kids. We each tell a story with our social media and online presence. It doesn't have to be 100% the whole story to be accurate about our lives. We can share a photo of a donut for example, but no one needs to know we used the bathroom at the donut shop. We often discuss how something someone else posted makes us feel. That donut photo our friend posted with the hashtag #JoshLovesDonuts was hilarious because Josh DOES love donuts! Those kinds of posts help us connect to that friend more and give us a laugh as well. They brighten our day. I tell the kids to post the kinds of things that they enjoy reading. It's a lot of years of good upbringing that they enjoy donut photos and not naked photos! LOL
I asked my daughter how does she learn about what to share and what not to share online? She learns some stuff from me but the bulk of what she learns is from doing research online. Even though I work online all day with a job in blogging and social media, she doesn't see everything. And sometimes, parents need some evidence and help to back them up when making an explanation to their teen. That's what's great about ShareAwesome – it is that resource that a lot of parents need. In addition to learning from me, my daughter looks at some of her favorite YouTubers and studies what they do – she isn't about being risque or revealing. The YouTubers she likes are ones who have found a passion and are now making videos (and making money) doing what they love. She sees the positive impact that their interactions online and with social media have had in their lives and is modeling her behavior after that. I love the idea that she is doing her own research and learning. The #ShareAwesome program will also offer online resources that you can use, without having to spend hours doing research, to educate you and your kids about online behavior and safety. Much of the content and lessons will come from other users sharing what's working for them to help their kids make safe decisions, spread uplifting messages, and be positive online.
I think it is great that this program will now be in schools and supported by LifeLock – who knows what repercussions info shared online now will have in our kids' lives later? At least make it fun, happy, and joyful. You can't go wrong with that!
Join the movement and snap a photo of an awesome moment in your day and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the #ShareAwesome hashtag! Pumpkin spice latte — that's pretty awesome!
The #ShareAwesome contest invites social media users to share a smart and safe decision, uplifting accomplishment, or positive action for the good of others using hashtag #ShareAwesome on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Students who enter a photo between September 15 – November 30, 2014 will be eligible to win fantastic prizes, including tablets and a $2,500 scholarship! Visit ShareAwesomeNow.org to learn more.
I hope you found this post helpful. I know it is really hard to talk to our kids about these issues, especially if we don't totally understand all that is available to them online. I think resources like these, from trusted organizations like LifeLock and the National PTA, are so valuable to us and to our neighbors! First, we can model what to do to our kids by involving them in our own actions. Show them what to post photos of, involve them in the process of posting to social media and uplifting others online. Then, we can have frank conversations with the kids about real situations and how to behave in them as well as the impact our choices online make in our lives from here on out. That's where #ShareAwesome comes in. Use it. It's free, it's smart, and it makes sense.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.