Five Social Media Parenting Strategies

Date: Jul 22 2013

Marcy Hall, HUB International - A FOX Thought Leaders Council Member

The following blog post is a contribution from HUB International, a Thought Leaders Council member of the Family Office Exchange.

I was recently visiting New York with my family. We had just returned from dinner and were relaxing in our hotel room when my daughter asked me to pass her cell phone to her. As I did, I noticed that she had been communicating during dinner with her siblings using something called Snapchat.

Snapchat is a photo messaging application that enables users to send photos and videos, known as “snaps,” to a controlled list of recipients. It promises users a method to send images without the worry of permanency. The user can set a time limit for how long recipients can view their snaps, ranging from as little as one second to up to 10 seconds, after which they will be hidden from the recipient's device and deleted from the company's servers.  At least that is what users have been led to believe!

My own children range in age from 15 to 21 years. This smart phone generation can be enterprising and adept at using technology but they often display deficiencies in good judgment, namely believing the promises made by social networks will actually be kept.  I know Snapchat says they don’t store these photos, but ever since Al Gore founded the Internet, we have found that what goes into the cyber world often remains there forever. And as if the possibility of children taking and sending compromising photos and videos is not disturbing enough, parents are now discovering that even more enterprising technophiles have accessed the archives of Snapchat photos and posted these images on websites. Good bye disappearing image, hello historical record of one’s own foolishness. 

Once again we stand bewildered at the pace and nature of the change on the Internet. We have known the importance of engaging our children on the dangers of the cyber world. Children are born to make mistakes and it is our jobs to guide them.

All of these admonitions apply to this latest application. While I type this blog another enterprising smartphone kid (and future FOX member no doubt) is developing the next app that will give us all angst.  Technology will continue to evolve, and the pace will likely increase. Our best defense is to engage and learn so we can arm the ones we love with the knowledge they need in order for them to truly understand the risk.

The great challenge to the parents and guardians of today is trying to apply rules to something we actually know little about.  Here are a few practical steps to take if you want to help to mitigate the dangers:

  1. Get engaged. Try to understand the power of these tools and applications, and discover some common ground with your children (even if they often seem to do little more than grunt when you are speaking).    
  2. Learn how your children communicate. This generation is far more visual and considerably less verbal than the Boomers.  They talk through a screen most of the time and now can do this with photos (Instagram, Snapchat) or videos (Vine) making the use of words even less likely.
  3. Use these applications. Proper use of these tools can be enjoyable and fun.  For example, imagine sharing the artwork or performance of a family member with your children via Snapchat.  It’s easy and instantaneous but most importantly you’ll be communicating with them in a format they know.  The unintended benefit is for you to learn how the app works.  By selecting privacy settings yourself, it will be easier to explain it to your children and increases your credibility when you talk to them about the technology.
  4. Establish and explain boundaries. When our children first venture out on the street, we do not expect them to know how to cross the road safely. These highways are no different.  Show and explain to them the equivalent steps to looking both ways and staying in the cross walk.  We would be just as wary of warnings that were driven by fear and ignorance as they are.  It is not enough to advise them; we need to understand the threats to their online safety and privacy.
  5. Monitor your children’s activities. If we embrace the technology and communicate with our children about it, monitoring the activity becomes less onerous. You can become friends on Facebook and follow on Twitter where you will have the chance to point out potential problems. Friends posting compromising pictures only expose you and your family to possible problems with a future job or school applications. We would no more leave our teenagers unattended at home or our younger children alone in a mall. Social networks are communities and meeting places that require adult supervision appropriate to your child’s age.

We are blessed with many unique and interesting ways to stay connected. The members of the next generation most likely to excel will be those who use these tools to accelerate their capabilities. We have the chance and responsibility to give each of them the best shot at being part of that group, but only if we are in the game with them.

About Marcy Hall

Marcy Hall is a Private Client Advisor for  HUB International Personal Insurance based out of Palm Beach, Florida. Marcy specializes in designing and implementing Personal Risk Management programs for high net worth individuals and families. Recognizing that affluent clients have broader insurance needs, Marcy works to assess unique exposures and develop strategies to mitigate risk using insurance products and risk reduction techniques. In addition, Marcy works with single and multi-family Offices to facilitate insurance placements for the both the families and business insurance needs.