Talking To Your Kids About How They Act Online #digifam

digital-family-summit-logoI do 100% of my work online. I’m either on a desktop, a laptop, or out-and-about on my smartphone. I’m writing blog posts or posting to Facebook/Twitter/Instagram or hosting a Twitter party. When I’m not online, I’m in the car driving kids from sports practice to Cub Scouts to swimming before heading back home. Or I’m at home squeezing in household tasks and phone calls in whatever spare time I have. Occasionally I even cook a meal.

Because I am online so much for work, I am always on my guard. I know that sounds a bit sinister and overprotective, but safety is important wherever you are. Think about it this way… My office is not in a brick-and-mortar building. Though I work from a “brick” home, I do all my work online. I interact with clients. Chat with friends. Brainstorm with colleagues. I work in the online world.

The cardinal rule of online communications — at least for me — is that whatever you “say” online is permanent. Words written online stay forever. If I write something today in anger about a school situation, in all likelihood I will forget about what I have written until someone finds what I wrote in a moment of anger. Might be a teacher or an administrator. I may have written in haste letting anger cloud my judgment. This permanence of my online writings makes me cautious about what I write.

I fell in to blogging and social media by accident. What started as a blog for a graduate class morphed in to a family blog, which became this blog. Since my children were 5, 9, and 11 when I started, I never had the freedom to blog EVERYTHING. I’m sure you have read blogs where every single, solitary moment of the mom and child’s day is up for blogging. My three kids were already in full-day school when I started writing regularly on my blog.

My kids are now active online. The two older ones are on Facebook, Instagram, and even Tumblr. The younger one plays online games and has an email account. I know that my kids are online at home and at school. I want them to think about what they write online. Like me, I want them to be good stewards of the internet. I want them to always put their best foot forward. I want them to think before they publish online.

Kids, like adults, need reminders that what they write can be so easily misconstrued. The written word is so different from the spoken word as you cannot hear tone of voice or see facial expressions when you are reading a post online. I have had many conversations with my kids where I have let them know that their posts on FB, twitter, instagram, etc., can (1) be read by anyone on the internet unless they set their privacy controls, so that only their friends can see their posts, and (2) that potential college admissions counselors or potential employers might first do an internet search on them to see how they act online before hiring them. I cringe when I see kids posting about underage drinking or even use foul language online.

I hope my kids always act cautiously online, but it is hard as they have grown up communicating online. My first foray in to the online world was only in 1991 when I signed up for America Online. As a tween and teen, I only communicated with friends through phone calls, letters or in person. Times have changed for today’s kids, tweens, and teens.

I’ve found with my kids that I have ongoing conversations that develop as they get older, more mature, and more computer savvy. Best advice a friend gave to me many years ago was to always keep the lines of communication open with your kids on ANY topic. Kids are very savvy and usually one step ahead of mom and dad.

Back when I started blogging, I knew that my children deserved privacy. Even though I read many blogs, where moms and dads blogged about EVERY single detail of their kids’ lives. I knew I couldn’t be so open. I needed to maintain our privacy for safety reasons. So from the beginning I developed a Code of Ethics. I follow this code every time I log in to my blog or post to Facebook. Even deciding to post a photo to Instagram is subject to assessing whether I should post.

Musings from Me Code of Ethics for Moms and Dads on Social Media

  1. The online word lasts forever. Remember that when you are posting about your kids. Think about whether your child will be embarrassed by what you write. Does that anecdote you are dying to share with your readers and followers show your child in a good light? I follow the rule that if I have concerns about posting I don’t post. It’s that simple…I don’t want my children’s friends to find an embarrassing story online.
  2. Privacy is key. Keeping your family safe is a matter of top priority. With that tenet in mind, I NEVER post my children’s real names (I use aliases “the Kid,” “the Tween,” and “the Teen”; the names of their schools; names of sports teams; or the exact location of where we live.
  3. Photographs. Some bloggers opt not to post photos of their children. These bloggers might use stock photos to illustrate a post or only photograph their children from behind. I’m not one of those bloggers, but I am still cautious. I don’t use photos that show the name of schools or sports teams. I only post flattering photos. I have teens and you know how teens are about how they look!
  4. Write first, then edit. What’s that they say about “Once an editor, always an editor”? I was a book editor for years. Old habit die hard. I still am my hardest critic when it comes to my writing. I will write three sentences for every sentence I publish. I re-read EVERYTHING. I’ll write a Facebook status update, wait a moment, and then take another moment to re-read the status before I hit publish. I cannot tell you how many status updates and tweets I delete. Lots. I think carefully before posting anything to social media sites or publishing something on this blog.
  5. Don’t worry! Your hands aren’t tied. You can still write on your blog about your family. If you follow my code of ethics, you will still have LOTS to blog about!

What is one rule of blogging that you always follow?

This coming weekend I will be joining moms, dads, and their kids to learn about being a Digital Family. I will be speaking on a panel on Saturday, October 12, 2013, on unplugging from the online world. I’ll be speaking on a panel at the Digital Family Summit in Baltimore  called Unplug! Parents Modeling Healthy Digital Behavior. I’m so excited to get a chance to share what I know with other moms and dads. My kids will even get a chance to participate in their own sessions on video creation, game design, taking photos, and more. In fact, there’s still time for you to register! The Digital Family Summit starts the evening of Friday, October 11, and goes until Sunday, October 13. If you are in the area, there is still time to register for the Digital Family Summit in Baltimore, MD!


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