I try real hard to be the mom my kids need while also being the mom they want. My son is now in middle school. Need I say more? Trying to play it cool, while also trying to keep the upper hand, can be difficult. But I did something the other night that put me in the doghouse - and for good reason.
I got a push notification that one of my son’s friends was streaming live on Instagram. Assuming that he must be doing something perfectly benign, rough housing with his brothers or showing off new Christmas gifts, I clicked on the account. I'm sure you can see where this is going.
I wasn't on but five seconds before I realized this was something I didn't need to see. A bunch of boys from my son’s school hanging out and talking teen talk. But before I could get out of the stream, there was a flurry of whispers. "Oh no! It's Mrs. Sander! Mrs. Sander just joined!" Freaking out, I hastily exited the session without saying a word and very sheepishly told my son what had happened. He was mortified (as I'm sure I would have been had we even had computers when I was in middle school).
Nearly a week later, I'm still beating myself up over it. How should I have played that? Is it wrong to be friends with your kid's friends on social media? And how do you know when and how much you're allowed to interact with your kids online?
Navigating social media is a delicate dance. It’s important that parents encourage their teens to make smart choices and to not over share online. But we very seldom stop to consider if, and what, the rules are for parents. Because I'm certain I probably broke several that particular night.
Make no mistake. I’m still very hands-on when it comes to my son’s social media use. I have all the passwords and constantly monitor his accounts. But I’m also now realizing that I need to give him some space. If you insert yourself too often, teens are very likely to create a secret social media account which could open up a whole new can of worms.
So this New Year, I'm going to resolve to improve my parental social media etiquette. In fact, I think I'll start by unfriending all of my son’s friends. And then I’ll go ask him if it’s OK for me to post this article. Happy New Year!
Tammy is the owner of Mother of Pearls, a full-service, boutique public relations agency in Carmel, IN, that specializes in media relations, media training and crisis communications.