Today is National Unfriend Day. While we realize this started out as a joke but it has taken off and has created an opportunity for conversation. Not that we want to take the fun out of this “holiday,” but we would like to take the time to remind you – to have a discussion with your kids about healthy relationships, over-sharing, internet safety and communication.
Social media has become for some, the only form of communication between friends, loved ones and strangers. Sometimes we forget the impact that a couple of shares, tweets, and likes can have on other people, both positive and negative.
Some things to remember: (many of these tips apply to adults too!)
1) Unfriending. The premise behind this, was to clear out lists and feeds from unwanted stories and pictures. Take the discussion further with your kids and talk to them about what it means to have a good friend and to be a good friend. What are the characteristics they look for when choosing a friend? What does loyalty mean to them? Can they trust their friends? Can their friends trust them? Do their friends make good choices? Do their friends support their choices? Unfriending is not a bad thing; in fact it can be very healthy and healing, especially when done with thought and care. It is certainly OK to decide not to be friends with people that do not enrich our lives in some way; and it is certainly OK for anyone to make sure that they are surrounded with kind, considerate people that respect and support them. We also want to celebrate friendship, healthy relationships, having good boundaries and communication with those in our circles.
2) What happens online, stays online. Have a conversation about their online footprint; explain that everything they post to the world wide web, is open season for anyone who wants to see it: coaches, teachers, employers, family, college recruiters/scouts, predators. And yes, we have all experienced “posting remorse” but sometimes just deleting something from your page/profile/feed, does not delete it entirely, especially if it’s been screen grabbed, shared, printed, etc.
3) Bloated lists. Talk to your kids about their friends/followers. Do they know who is reading and watching their activity? Is having a lot of connections more important to them or a handful of really good ones? Remind kids that they should only accept friend requests from people they actually know. Did they accept your request? Are you on their list? You should be!
4) Tracing your steps. Remind kids to be mindful of the pictures they post; remember to turn off location services so people can not trace their picture/location. Discuss what pictures are appropriate to take and share with others. Have a discussion about sexting and the legal ramifications about forwarding nude images of others/themselves. Great time to talk about privacy and modesty.
5) In your head, onto the screen. There are many of us that share every thought, feeling, experience to social media. Ask your kids to think about the reason they post; the risk vs. reward for sharing certain stories, feelings, comments, etc. Many of us were raised to “think before you speak” … we can now include “think before you type.” Learning how to self edit at an early age, can only prove to be helpful as they mature. This should not be confused with suggesting they turn off their emotions or stop expressing their feelings; but to encourage when it is safe and appropriate to share, and with whom.