Growing up in a Latino household, your manners were most likely instilled on you one loud yell at a time, “Don’t chew with your mouth open,” or “What do we say?” That is, before you felt the mighty wrath of your mom’s chancla. These days when our lives revolve online, however, translating those hard-learned manners into rules that your teenager would actually heed is another story – especially when kids nowadays tend to be more tech-savvy than we are.
Raising a teen to be a good cyber citizen can be challenging, but no one says it has to be impossible. Before you go pry the cellphone from your teen’s begging hands [or worse, grab the chancleta], it may be smarter to try setting some social media ground rules. Here are some you can start putting in place today:
- Develop reasonable rules and restrictions together. Discussing responsible and appropriate usage, timing, browsing restrictions and your expectations for who should be allowed to view their profile will allow them to understand the root of your concern, making it easier for you to enforce the rules later. This means no calls or texting at the dinner table, no cellphone use at night, at homework time, or when they’re supposed to be sleeping. Be open to their suggestions but stay firm, and make sure they know you’d terminate their service, if necessary.
- Connect with them online and monitor their profile often. Yes, they’ll give you lots of pushback on this one, but you want to make sure you can see their comings and goings. Make a promise to keep your own manners, i.e. not sticking your nose in their conversations. If you see any trouble arising, discuss it with them offline so they learn that the right way to handle that kind of situation is face to face and in a respectful manner.
- Don’t raise a troll. Remind them of how disrespectful or careless behavior, whether on or offline, can cause great harm to others as well as bring it to themselves.They should know that insulting, defaming or gossiping about others online, even when done anonymously, can be traced to the source and may even get them in trouble with the law.
- Teach them reputation management. Make sure they understand how certain kinds of behavior and posts may bring about long-lasting consequences for themselves as they apply for college, for a summer job, and enter adult life. Remind them to think twice about what they post and that once something gets posted online, it’s impossible to take it back.
- Teach them anger management. Suggest they take a break before posting something while angry. As mentioned above, what goes online, stays online, so remind them take some time to clear their head before they post something they may later regret.
- Set a good example. Be polite, respectful and conscientious about what you post on your own online profiles. You may talk about online manners all you want, but your teen is more likely to emulate your actual behavior than to heed your words. When we gossip or use a disrespectful tone online, we are indirectly sending our kids the message that it’s okay to treat others this way. It may also bring about the very thing you’re trying to avoid: disrespect and harassment directed at your teen.
What other tips do you recommend for parents trying to teach teens social media manners? Let me know in the comments!
Elianne Ramos is Principal/CEO of Speak Hispanic Marketing and Vice-Chair, Marketing and PR for Latinos in Social Media (LATISM). Under LATISM, she is also Chief Editor of the LATISM blog, and hostess to weekly Twitter chats reaching over 18.8 million impressions. Follow her on Twitter @ergeekgoddess.