Good Digital Parenting
Blog | July 27, 2015

A Teen's Advice for Parents of Generation W3

McKinley Technology High School

As our world becomes more globalized technology is pushing us forward, connecting us in ways that no one ever thought possible. It's being used every second of the day no matter the circumstances. 

For example, on June 23rd at about 7:00 pm the Washington D.C area was hit by a huge thunderstorm. Winds were blowing, rain was falling like crazy and lighting lite up the sky. While everyone else was probably at home waiting out the storm, I was at work trying to turn some papers into one of our office buildings. When I stepped in the office it was raining a little, nothing heavy, but when I got out a few minutes later it looked like I had just stepped into a hurricane. Outside there were about 10 of us waiting for the rain to let up so we could run to our Human Resources office nearby and turn in our time sheets. We couldn't get back into the building because apparently we had been locked out. One boy said ‘since this might be the last thing we do let’s make a Snapchat.’ I thought to myself we are out here in a thunderstorm about to get soaked and the thing on his mind was Snapchat! This is a look inside the mind of someone a part of Generation W3 (Generation www).

I’m going to take a wild guess and say over 80% of the people born in my generation use social media. We want to share everything from the food we are about to eat, to the new outfit we are debating on buying at the mall.  We have access to everything and there’s something new every week from the color debate over “the dress” to dangerous challenges in order to get lips like Kylie Jenner. This is enough to drive any parent insane but it doesn’t have to. Parents might think that the best way to keep their child safe from social media is to lock them away from it. But this shouldn’t be the case. Social media is a wonderful tool, especially if used correctly. It is one of the fastest ways to spread information around. Now, things can go viral seemingly overnight. Most of the new singers today made it big because someone found them on social media. But with all this influx of information parents and teens need to be prepared.

Social media is a great way to teach your child about responsibility, consequences, professionalism, and maintaining a positive reputation. 

My best advice to parents is to educate your children on the risks and benefits of social media. Teach them that the spontaneous picture they took, that video they posted or that tweet can have serious consequences. There are numerous examples of people getting fired and or being shamed online for what they said in a passing tweet or video.

As a teenager, I know what we want. We want to be treated like adults even though we are still children. We want some kind of responsibility. Social media is a great way to teach your child about responsibility, consequences, professionalism, and maintaining a positive reputation. Trust me, instilling these skills early on will allow parents to rest easier about their child being on Twitter late at night. If you place a tight leash on your child in regard to their social media use they will have learned nothing. They will only do things because they know you are there and watching. But what happens when you aren’t there? What if they create an account you don’t have access to like Snapchat: 10 seconds and its gone? 

I understand you are trying to protect your child but you won’t be there all the time. They need to learn on their own. The best you can do is hope that the lessons you have taught them resonate, in real life and online. Everyone makes mistakes when they are young, but if they were never taught to take responsibility, they will keep making them. Use missteps as a teaching moment, not a time to scold. So you have to let your child be in charge of their online persona and nudge them in the right direction.

But that’s just me. 

Cover image courtesy of Flickr