Whether we like it or not, social media and constant access via smart phones are part of our children’s lives. For many parents comprehending 21st Century teenage communication can be a real challenge. However making an effort to understand how it works by getting involved is far better than burying your head in the sand.

Setting up your own Facebook page and asking your teen to explain how to use it can be a good way to start. If they are experiencing problems with peers, getting into mischief or sharing the wrong sort of information or pictures, you are far more likely to come across issues early, if you are involved yourself.

Choose your battles carefully. The aim is to build their trust so they are careful with what they say as they know you are there in the background, but they don’t choose to shut you out altogether. Sharing and joining in presents parents with opportunities to discuss peer pressure, relationships, protecting your digital footprint and considering the potential damage pictures and posts could do to future university and job applications.

Understanding and choosing the privacy and notification settings carefully means there are fewer concerns about who you are sharing personal information with. Safety online is paramount and agreeing rules about what personal information is safe to share is crucial.

Acting on impulse through social media is rarely a good idea. Think before you post is a good lesson for life, much the same as think before you speak. Encourage the habit of reading through carefully before posting and taking a moment to thing about whether anything could be mis-understood or mis-interpreted by others either now or in the future. Once out there, taking it back is tricky and the consequences for both yourself and others may be serious and long-term.

Like it or not, communication via smart phone and social media is here to stay. Embrace it and get involved. You never know, you may even enjoy it and have some fun yourself.

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