Your Student Is On Social Media Even Though You Think They’re Not

How many of you decided to sneak something out of your house when you were younger even though your parents told you not to?

I was perfect, so this doesn’t apply to me. ??But Jami has a number of stories where she snuck clothes and makeup out in her backpack on the way to school or a church event. Her parents told her she couldn’t wear the outfit she wanted to wear. So, instead of listening, she decided she would walk out the door in their approved clothing attire. Then change right after arriving to where ever she was going. Then change back before getting picked up or getting home. The whole time, her parents were naive to the fact that their little angel wasn’t following the rules they have set.

Times aren’t much different. We’ve caught Morgan trying to sneak out clothes in her backpack prior to getting on the bus. Knowing what we know, we decide to do what we call, “Spot prison searches.” Ok, we don’t really call them that. But our children (ages 13 & 15) know that we can, and will spot check bags, rooms and yes… phones. Not because we’re nosy… even though we are. Not because we want to make their lives miserable… even though that’s a plus if they’re doing wrong. No. It’s really not for either of those two reasons. We reserve the right to do spot checks because we care. Because we are trying to protect them. Because we want the best for them. We know things they don’t. We can foresee problems and dangers that they can’t foresee. So it’s up to us to teach and guide our children to the best of our ability.

Quick disclaimer before we move on… We don’t have all the answers. This is simply the way we’re choosing to parent our children and social media.

The same is true with social media. I’ve talked to a lot of parents who pride themselves that their student isn’t on social media. The reasons are many and range from…

We don’t know anything about social media so we’e not going to let our student be on it.

Social media is so negative and full of drama. There’s just so much bad stuff on there so we’re going to keep our student off of it.

There’s social predators out there that can take advantage of students, so our student won’t be on it cause it scares us.

Students are on social media too much, so we’re just going to keep our student off of it.

All of those reasons aren’t bad reasons. They’re valid and real. But they aren’t reasons that your student will stay off of social media. And that’s the real scary part. Because, to think that your student isn’t on social media is naive. Your student(s) may not have social accounts with their names listed. But time and time again I have heard stories from parents who had banned their student from social media only to receive a phone call from a school official, law enforcement officer or coach informing those same parents that their student was in trouble for what they had posted or sent on social media.

How could that be? You ask… good question. One, students today will either make a social account that isn’t related to their real name so that they can connect digitally but not come up on their parents radar should they search Instagram (for example) using their real name. Or, when they go to a friend’s house, the first thing they do is jump on their friend’s social account to chat, send photos, messages, or posts. Whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, TikTok, etc… the student who isn’t allowed to have their own social account is going to their friend’s house and jumping on theirs. It’s kinda like when some my friends came over to my house back in the day. They didn’t want to play outside, they just wanted to watch tv and drink pop all day. Why? Because their parents wouldn’t allow them to watch tv and drink pop.

It’s. The. Same. Exact. Thing.

But the potential consequences are far much worse. We’re not talking about simply getting cavities because the student has drank too much Mountain Dew. The consequences with social media can be much more serious and life-altering for our students when they don’t have any guidance on how to use it responsibly.

That’s why, for us and our students, we have decided to allow them to have Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and SnapChat accounts when they reached the age the social platforms allowed them to sign up. We didn’t just let them sign up and wish them good luck. We signed them up ourselves and put some safeguards in place. Safeguards like:

We kept their passwords… meaning, they didn’t have access to them. They didn’t know what they were.

People couldn’t add them or follow them without our approval on the accounts that had that privacy option.

We don’t allow our students’ friends on our students’ social accounts.

If we find a “fake” account that our students have created, “all” of their accounts will be shut down in addition to receiving offline consequences.

We reserve the right to spot check our students’ phones and social media accounts.

We give them guidelines on what to post. We discuss when we think posts should be removed. We let them know over and over and over and over and over again that everything they post is… Instant. Global. And Permanent. What they post today, can have severe, negative consequences years from now.

Yes, allowing our students to have social media accounts was a hard decision. It should be. And yes, it has and is and will take a lot of work on our part. We monitor our students’ social accounts and our students’ friends’ accounts when possible. We also try to stay up to date on the current digital trends. We have decided to not use time as an excuse on not allowing our students to be on social media. And we think it’s worth it. Our students are going to make mistakes. Offline and online. And I’d rather our student make a mistake early when the mistake is less likely to be life-altering and when we can still have influence in their lives. If we don’t have these discussions with them now and teach them how to use social media now, they won’t know how to use it in the future. The mistakes that are being made now, is nowhere near as big as they could be in the future if we didn’t teach and guide them now.

Just like we went to the mall for our social connection or talked on phones for hours, our students today are going digital for their social connections. And that means that, even though you tell them they can’t have their own social accounts, they will find a way to discover and explore those connections digitally. (Just like I found my way to the mall, even though I told my mom I was going to Ben’s house.) It’s just a fact, students connect digitally with each other. And while some people would rather their students build relationships offline, the digital world they live in will only be getting bigger… especially in today’s climate.

Our job as parents isn’t to put our head in the sand and pretend that if we say no it won’t happen. Our job as parents is to guide and teach our students. This is the way that Jami and I have decided to handle social media with our students. Again, it’s not that we have all the answers. It’s just our way of doing things. I hope you’ve found it helpful. Please know that I’ll also have additional posts about students and social media that I think will be helpful as well. Looking forward to sharing those posts.

Thoughts on social media? Questions? Ready. Set. Comment.