Social media is constantly changing, and NOT just amongst the younger generations. One moment a certain platform is insanely popular, then it falls into obscurity the next.
It seems like parents have a challenging time trying to keep up with all the shifts.
And rightfully so.
But then there are others that completely ignore the networks all together. Maybe they are on Facebook, but anything more than that doesn’t get a second look. Meanwhile, their children are bouncing from platform to platform all around the web.
What is it that makes parents stay in one spot (and resistant to dive in and learn more)? Why don’t parents take the time to fully understand social media?
Well, there seems to be a few reasons we hear about a lot! But are these justifiable reasons, or just excuses to avoid the inevitable change that every generation needs to tackle head-on?
[EXCUSE 1] Parents do not have the time
Ask any parent, and they all have their own views, values and ideas in raising their child. There is no magic formula. We learn from past generations, but past generations themselves are not equipped to advise on the new generation.
Parents must provide (first and foremost) for every need and cater to their children's various desires. This means spending each day working, cleaning, cooking, supporting, and loving just to meet the child’s basic needs.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs is still true today, but 24/7 access to technology, and in particular social media, is chipping away at the very foundations of safety, love & belonging, and esteem. Self actualisation (at the very top of the pyramid) can only be achieved if these foundations are in place and secure.
Being a parent vs parenting? A tough question, but one that every parent needs to distinguish between. Parenting requires every parent to prepare their child for the 'real world' that they will enter and lead. How can this be done, if parents do not find time to understand what their children are using, and why they use it?
It doesn't mean that every parent needs to be on, and active in every social media channel their child is on - but they need to understand it.
There are only so many hours in the day. Agreed. But, if your child was about to climb Everest - wouldn't you find time to understand the risks and journey they are taking? Don't you also want to share in the stories & experience? Why is social media any different? Make time.
[Excuse 2] Scared of change
This is a very very normal human (mainly adult) trait. Change brings the possibility of things turning out for the worse — and nobody wants worse - we all want better. Do we risk the comfortable, routine 'Status Quo' of our narrow mindsets. Is that what our 15 year old self would do? Is that what you want your own children to adopt as their standard position? No!
So what can be done to change this default closed mindset?
Change isn't all bad. We seemed to move on from the radio to TV, from VHS to DVD to Bluray, from vinyl to CD to MP3. Why can't we move on from online forums to social media? Our children already have, and many adults have too. It's time to open our minds, but this cannot be done overnight.
Change takes time. People need to be brought along the journey. Parents need to be educated too. This is a shared responsibility with the schools. Schools need to take the lead. What is your school doing to help bridge this gap in knowledge between your students and their parents? Sadly, most schools are still doing nothing. Paying lip service to 'online safety' talks - without tangibly getting under the hood of these channels that consume our children's lives.
[Excuse 3] The platform does not make sense
Parents today didn’t grow up with the same speed of evolving technology as we are today. It seems that many still struggle with adapting to the new online environment. Technology growth is exponential. The doubling of computer processing speed every 18 months, known as Moore's Law, is just one manifestation of the greater trend that all technological change occurs at an exponential rate.
With new platforms popping up everyday, the entire process can become incredibly overwhelming. And that leaves many parents feeling hopeless in their effort to learn, adapt and succeed with new social media platforms.
Do you bury your head, or overcome [Excuse 1] and [Excuse 2], and find time to understand them?
[Excuse 4] Parents are not interested
And then sometimes, parents just truly don’t care!! Ok so you have read [Excuses 1, 2 & 3] - can you honestly say you are not interested! This is your children's future?
For whatever reason, the idea of social media doesn’t seem appealing. But many parents watch YouTube, and have Facebook accounts? Ask your children about Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Meerkat, Periscope & Flickr.
Don't project your own lack of interest in emerging technology onto your children, or the gulf will only widen as they grow up. Let's face it, they will be the ones running our world. Don't let them develop bad habits, or fall victim to privacy issues. Their digital legacy means much more to them (and you). Be interested!
Should parents find time to understand social? Yes, Yes, Yes!
The world has changed. The way we communicate, share, learn, collaborate, consume, has all changed.
And this isn't the future, this is the past. The technology we use IS going to evolve. Our behaviour IS going to change. There's no point in hiding away from this.
"The Media" use scare tactics to create panic into people about social media - it is rare to see positive stories about social, even though they happen every single day.
Start telling your story. We would love to hear it (as would your parents!).
And if you don't understand social *yet*, don't worry - you're not alone...
Do you have any resources on understanding social media? What tips would you give to parents trying to understand social media?