Sex, Drugs, and Social Media – Do You Talk To Your Kids About Their Digital Behaviors?


This blog post was originally posted over at PopGoesDad. Thanks to Kurt for the invitation to Guest Blog.


I admit it…when I was in high school, I was a total metal head…and so was my mom.

It was kind of strange growing up with a mom who listened to AC/DC, the Scorpions, and M­ötley Crüe and there were some awkward explanations to my friends about why she often wore a black Van Halen 1984 tour t-shirt. But any downsides to having a rock ‘n’ roll mom were usually made up for by the fact that she not only listened to the music, but also seemed to understand it. Which helped her understand me a little better.

Hail! Hail! Rock And Roll!

During my teen years, the big issues facing parents were the topics of “sex, drugs and rock and roll”. Most parents seemed to (somewhat) understand how to have the sex and drugs conversations with their teens, but rock and roll was an entirely different story.

Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll used to be parents' 3 worst nightmares! Now...it's sex, drugs and social mediaAt the time, Tipper Gore and her Parents Music Resource Center were busy trying to blame all of the woes of the 80s and 90s on the “Filthy fifteen” and the bands that produced them. Parents who didn’t listen to rock didn’t have a clue how to talk to their kids about it. So kids were left to their own interpretations of lyrics and the music, which sometimes had negative consequences.

My mom was a little different, though, and she took a slightly different approach. She and I talked a lot about music and lyrics…more so than sex or drugs. Here stances on sex and drugs were pretty straight-forward:

For sex, it was – “Wait, but if you choose to…use protection.”

For drugs, it was – “Do them at your own risk. Your brain is yours to waste, but I won’t bail you out of jail for drug charges.”

Her stance on rock and roll was a bit more complex: “listen closely, enjoy it, understand it, learn from it. If you don’t understand it, let’s talk about it.”

So I did. I remember once asking her about the lyrics to AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and we had a pretty good chat about revenge. The fact that she knew the song, knew the lyrics and was able to have the conversation put her in control and helped me better understand not only the music, but a concept that impacts teens every day.

So what does this have to do with social media?

I’m pretty sure that social media has replaced rock and roll as the complex issues facing parents, today. Too often, when I tell other parents that I’m the Director of Social Media for a digital agency, I get a blank stare and a request for clarification of what I do that goes something like “Does that mean you play on Facebook all day?” This is usually followed by  phrases like “I just don’t get that stuff!” or some nonsense like “it’s all about cats on skateboards or people eating oatmeal!”.

For those that do have some understanding of social media, I still hear things like “my kid spends way to much time on Facebook” or “I’m not sure how we’re going to handle this whole ‘sexting’ thing.” And then they stare politely at me, as though I’m expected to explain it all to them and clarify why their kids love Facebook and how to keep them from sexting.

Texting has created a whole new concern for parentsMy response in those conversations is generally the same each time. I start with a simple question. “Do your kids know what social media is?” The answer is usually “Of course!” because these are kids that have grown up with Webkins online, Club Penguin, and YouTube.

I then follow with “Do you know what social media is and how to explain to them what is and isn’t appropriate behavior online?” This one gets more challenging responses. Most parents have thought about the conversations that need to be had about online pornography and viewing inappropriate materials. So at least some thought is usually given to the topic.

Finally, I ask “have you had a conversation with your kids about what is and isn’t appropriate online and on their mobile device?”

Believe it or not, the answer is more often than not “No.” The fact that most parents haven’t had a “social media” chat with their kids tells me that:

a) They don’t see social media as an issue that warrants a conversation

b) They don’t understand social media well enough to discuss it

or

c) They recognize that it’s an issue, but don’t know how to address it

So if you have kids who are using the Internet, I ask you…which category do you fall into? Have you had “the talk”? Do you plan on it? If so, how will you approach it?

Don’t let your kids engage in social media alone…it’s a scary world out there on the Web and they’ll need all the guidance they can get.

It might be awkward to have the conversation, but I’m pretty sure it will be less awkward than finding out that they have posted naked photos on the Internet.

As always…would love to hear thoughts and similar experiences in comments!

Cheers!

**sex, drugs rock and roll sign image courtesy of Creative Commons license at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikecogh/5542175413/

**texting photo image courtesy of Creative Commons license via PictureYouth at http://www.flickr.com/photos/45688888@N08/5915484733/

–Sean

Comments And Reactions

  1. My oldest needed some tips on social etiquette on social media. Many don’t know or understand it is one large public forum and one needs to be careful with the words and expressions used, as each is in a different place in time and mindset.

  2. Nice article! Good point about Social Media becoming the new communication gap between parents and their kids.

  3. My son is 2 so it’s going to be a while before I have to deal with this stuff. I will talk to him about social media, whatever form it takes in 10 or 12 years time!

    I think it’s vital we prepare kids for this stuff, but it’s hard for folks that aren’t into it to understand.

  4. Thankfully, our children weren’t into using computers and internet much until they were grown. Some of us can still remember a time before they existed.

  5. Sean,
    I grew up in the same era as you, I wish my mom had talked to me about sex, drug, and rock and roll the way your mom did. For that reason, I talk to my teenagers about social media constantly and every other risk or predator out there that could endanger my precious kids. I really enjoyed your post and warning to make sure parents need to be engaged in their kids social media habits, I think we as parents need to be involved in all aspects of our kids lives.

    Wendy Elwell

    • Thanks for the comment, Wendy! Like you, I spend a lot of time talking with my kids about the risks out there. I’m doing everything I can to help them understand that just like any real-life city, there are “good parts” of the Web and “bad parts” to stay away from.

      As far as I’m concerned, the more they know before spending time on social networks, the better armed they will be to stay away from the creeps.

      Cheers!

      –Sean

  6. Great Read!!

  7. I am constantly shocked by the lack of over-sight and just conversation in general that the parents of my kids friends exhibit. Too many parents are unaware of the importance and power of social media. Great post. I’ll pass it along.

  8. Great perspective on Modern day challenges… I was a child of the 60’s… it was just great booze then for mum and dad to worry about.

  9. stevenandre says:

    ASAP make a Facebook page/account and see what is going on.
    Make it a game by sending each other messages, instead of notes on the fridge (so you learn). And ask your kids for advice building there site or what ever(bounding). In that time (quit a of lot time) you can talk and learn and understand what is going on, on social media. Why should I?
    Soon ya gotta; there will be no paper mail anymore in the near future. (don’t wanna alarm them)

  10. Ha! Since I’ve been so active with social media, launching a bestseller with it, and involved in conversation management, my sons (in their twenties now) came to me to learn the ropes of social media. (I was the mom who made chocolate chip cookies while listened to AC/DC, and Prince, but that’s another conversation all together.) It’s made for a great success for my first born. He put together his LinkedIn right after college and updates it often enough that he just got a dream job with a great company that approached him because of how he showed up there. Talk to your kids. Learn this stuff. Its a difference maker.

    • Thanks for sharing, Marilyn! Glad to hear that open conversations helped prepare your kids for the social networking. I agree…the more we talk, the more aware of the risks/benefits they’ll be.

      Cheers!

      –Sean

  11. Sean
    From one Coffee addict to another, thanks for the wake up call. I needed the reminder to engage my son in a discussion if for nothing else than to show my interest in him.

  12. I’m the one leading the way with social media in my family. My son the academic follows my social media lead.

    As for my grand children, I’m delighted to note my 13 year old grand daughter is not the least bit interested in Facebook, or any network for that matter. Notwithstanding, her online activity is monitored without too much ado.

    I’m aghast to observe the online behavior of nieces and nephews, and from time to time ride the social media high way patrol. Unfortunately, not everyone has a full grasp of due diligence with our childrens online activity, so well done, on a well argued post.

    Catherine

  13. John Gaither says:

    Drugs are just bad ,I know…I was doing them for 35 years and just quit 2 years ago, besy move I ever made…

  14. Of course I’ve had the “talk” Sean Darling… I’m an out of the box thinker when it comes to parenting. I know that resumes are old school, and future employers will be more interested on what they find by Googling potential employees. I tell my kids that anything you put online, will be there forever… do you want that? Think before you click… Great article my Dear, Cups Up! xoxo

  15. Indeed, very important to discuss with our children

  16. Chrissie says:

    What a great article. This is something I feel very passionate about.

  17. Great post – I had long hair as well, loving AC/DC still today and know tons of my friends who can’t explain or discuss with their kids about Social Media…..

    Detlev

  18. Personally with me, I never had “the talk” with my parents growing up, but my parents always seemed to be up to date with all the latest social media at the time that might expose us to sex and drugs. For example, as a child, my dad had banned my sister and I from watching Beverly Hills 90210… then we soon got banned from Dawson’s Creek. Anything with the “MATURE CONTENT” warning on it, we were banned from. Hey, we obviously found a way around it as we also found our way to doing all that was forbidden. However, I feel what made the biggest difference was that we knew our family values. We had our priorities in line. Though my parents never sat us down to tell us to say “no” to drugs and sex, they did make it clear that good grades and staying out of trouble were expected of us. So, though we made some stupid choices, we also made our parents proud. I think the most important thing nowadays, especially with all the social media outlets, is to keep aware. Stay in tune with the latest and greatest fads, get to know your children, and develop a sense of trust between yourself and your children so that you are not playing the detective majority of the time.

  19. Parents are at a disadvantage these days. They have to dig deeper than our parents had to in order to uncover dangerous or inappropriate behavior in their kids. Social media abuse cannot be detected by checking your child for a suspicious smell, glassy eyes or slurred speech. Parents are not able to simply flick the front porch light a couple of times in order to send a lingering date on his way. They have to get on the same page as their kids regarding technology and social media. It takes some time and effort. Our parents had it made:)

    • It is tough being a parent, these days. We try to balance teaching our children to be self-sufficient and autonomous while balancing the desire to check over their shoulders to see what they are watching on YouTube or who they are chatting with. I think the key is for parents to continue expanding their dialog with their kids and keep talking about those subjects that are uncomfortable (including inappropriate online content).

      It’s a tough job being a parent…be if we don’t do it right, the consequences are not bright.

      Cheers!

      –Sean

Trackbacks

  1. […] And let’s not even talk about teenagers. It seems that just when you have developed an understanding about how kids work, the puberty-switch is flipped and all that hard work and understanding goes right out the window. During the teen years, we have to worry about sex, drugs, and peer pressure and now the digital era has brought along new issues like sexting, online bullying and a host of other problems that come with social media. […]

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