7 Things Guys Wish Girls Knew
7 Things Your Teen Wishes You'd Stop Doing on Social Media Immediately
It's nice to offer the occasional kudos, like when your teen passes his or her driver's test, but it's important to be aware of how they feel about being the main focus of your posts all the time, says Susan Kuczmarski, Ph.D., family expert and author of The Sacred Flight of the Teenager: A Parent's Guide to Stepping Back and Letting Go. "Self-consciousness, sometimes called an 'imaginary audience,' can be overwhelming in teens," she says. In other words, they assume that everyone around them is watching and passing judgment. So even sharing a candid photo of your teen studying, while innocent to you, could feel like a violation of their privacy. Before you post, pause and ask yourself: Why do I want to share this particular update about my child? Is it really about his or her accomplishment, or is it about me showing off? The next step is to ask for their permission, which creates respect between you, says Kuczmarski.
Teens want their parents to follow them digitally, however, they prefer that's it's done from the background, says Rourke. "They don't want parents inserting themselves into their social exchanges. Follow and read, but ask questions or comment privately." If your offspring feels like you're cyberstalking them, they will eventually begin to censor their posts or block you from seeing them, warns Andrea Vazzana, Ph.D., child and adolescent psychologist at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center. "And to some extent, that's appropriate," she says. "Teens are supposed to be developing a sense of self. The trick is to figure out what the boundaries ought to be." Having an open conversation about your social media connection with them, and establishing some ground rules, will avoid tension later on.
What if your teen puts up a photo that you don't approve of, or says something that you know could come back to haunt them later? Your gut reaction might be to call them out on it right there, but "shaming" them online could do more harm than good, says Vazzana: "It can backfire for a parent to be criticizing a teen's post." A better strategy is to discuss — in person, or at least on the phone — the potentially inappropriate behavior, says Rourke. "Parents should regularly check their teens' social media activity, and it is indeed important for parents to be open and honest with their children that they will be doing this," she says. However, you want to pick and choose your battles, and fight the urge to interrogate on every item. "Find a balance between monitoring their safety and respecting their privacy," says Rourke.
Before you give in to the urge to go on a Facebook rant or "vaguebook" your displeasure about someone or something, remember that your teen is watching, and may be even cringing over it. "If you're trying to teach teens more mature behavior, to post something private or negative online is a poor example. In every possible way, it will effect them negatively," says Kuczmarski.
You might think you're being a "cool mom" by connecting with your teen's friends, but unless you've had a long-term personal relationship with this other child as well, there's no reason to insert yourself into their conversations. Think of it this way: Before social media, when kids spoke on the phone to each other, would you ever think it's okay to pick up the extension and offer your input? Probably not. When interacting with your teen's friends online, consider Rourke's rule of thumb: "If it's not something you would do in real life, don't do it online."
Be honest: Do you feel compelled to try to stage elaborate photo shoots every time you go on a family outing? Teens often complain that their parents' quest for the perfect Norman Rockwell picture has become more important than actually having fun together, says Rourke. "There is this culture of parenting right now that requires us to document our storybook-perfect parenting lives, and it's very easy to get sucked into that." Consider snapping just a pic or two and then putting away the phone. Also recommended by Rourke: Wait until the moment is over before you post about it, and give yourself permission to save some photos for your own private collection.
Video: 5 Things Teens WISH Parents Knew
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