Social Media has changed the way we do things. We connect with others and follow interests in ways we weren’t able to do before. Because it is so immediate and engaging, often as parents we use it to share images of our loved ones, during vacations and holidays and daily life, ranging from momentous occasions to whimsical moments.
What we choose to share illustrates our digital footprint; it portrays who we are virtually. Our children are too often the subjects of these images, long before they have an interest in being online.
At some point, our children will take an interest in social media and may eventually decide to explore a digital footprint of their own. When they do, we hope they will be careful when they post images of themselves and friends during their formative years.
The question therefore is, “how do we teach our children to make good decisions when using social media?” Chris Vollum, a “widely-recognized educator on numerous social platforms,” as described on his website
, is presenting to parents next week. He will discuss “how social media brings innate value, respect and relevance to our children’s lives.” His presentations help us reflect on the benefits and risks of social media.
After attending one of his first sessions and with further reading of research on adolescent development and the impact of social media, I decided years ago to stop posting images of my children unless they give consent. Why? In short, I want them to learn it is their digital footprint. Not mine. As soon as my children took interest in social media, I explained to them what I was doing and asked them if it was okay for me to post images and stories about them.
Yes, I wanted to show how clever and successful my two boys are, and how proud I am of them. But by engaging them in this process, it made them reflect and think about the impact of these pictures. It gave them power and control over their identity online.
The old adage goes, “do as I say, not as I do.” Too many times as adults we send conflicting messages to our children. By taking pictures and posting stories about our kids without their consent, we teach our children that they have no control and their online presence doesn’t matter.
Maybe if our youth learned that they had control of their digital footprint, they would think about their digital footprint and their peers on social media differently.