Let’s face it – as parents, if we’re past 30 (which I am) then we don’t fully get this social media stuff. We might think we do, but not nearly to the degree that our teenagers understand the technology. We just roll our eyes when we see our kids with their heads down and thumbs blazing across their phone or iPod. Social media is here to stay. This post will take a look at how this technology can benefit your child and how we as proactive parents can enable our child to take advantage of this technology.
Social media has made its way into the classroom. In an article posted on March 4, 2012 on the USAToday website, writer Mary Beth Marklaine describes how teachers embrace social media in their classrooms. More and more teachers and professors are broadcasting homework assignments, posting presentations, communicating with parents and running group projects through social media. This new reality is the way that our children communicate and teachers are finding that by embracing this they actually get more engagement from the students.
And social media is making its way into the workplace. Most companies realize the power of Facebook and have pages there, and even this blog is beginning to spread through Facebook on the Affluent Student page. Marketers are using video hosting sites like YouTube and Vimeo to distribute product commercials and information sharing. Still others are running their own live internet broadcasting channels to provide podcasts, webinars, training and other company media through sites like JustinTV and UStream.
Internally, companies are figuring out ways that they can leverage social media in their workforce. Facebook lookalike Yammer is sold as a private social media presence. Twitter is being looked at by companies for multiple uses. A tweet can provide a quick status update. It might also be used to alert on the existence of a problem. Still another use would be to communicate to all associates in the event of an email or messaging outage affecting the entire company.
The uses for social media aren’t all rosy. Besides the obvious security concerns, the distraction factor can be substantial. Teachers and professors find that students who are constantly attached to Facebook and text messaging are much less likely to be paying attention in class, and thus miss key lecture points. According to Marklaine’s article, 58% of students are on these sites during class when they shouldn’t be. And that is also a phenomenon that has made its way into conference rooms in businesses all across America. As smartphones and laptops make workers more portable, they also eat into the productivity of the American worker. Tim Mullaney wrote in May 2011 that these distractions and others cost the average 1,000 employee company $10 million dollars annually. He further went to write that workers spend over an hour a day on interruptions, 60% of which come through electronic channels.
So how best to manage it? At some point, your teen will be faced with the prospects of using social media. They will need it in their upcoming work life so it will pay for them to be tech savvy before they get there. But don’t let that be an excuse to buy them the all-inclusive data plan with the best smart phone on the market. Slowly bring teens into the mix. Monitor their computer activities on the home network before deciding to proceed onto a phone. All of these services can be used through a desktop or laptop computer so start there. Set expectations and usage limits for your child. Once they have a phone, enable only the services needed; I doubt they need to be able to send unlimited video mail or have unlimited text though they will tell you otherwise. Get a similar parental control package for your teen’s phone to protect them from online predators, either as a separate piece of software or as an add-on service to your cell plan.
Yes, social media can benefit your child. There are problems with untrained access, just like there is a problem with an untrained person using a gun or a chainsaw. It is a tool, and with the proper training and guidance your child will be well equipped to use social media to their fullest advantage. Parents, take the time to learn about these tools so that you know what your child is up to and so that you can guide them responsibly. What are your ideas on how parents can best teach and equip their child to use social media?