Keeping an eye on tweeting kids – or should we?

Following an article about Twitter published in M&D magazine last summer, one of our readers asked
Q: My daughter seems to spend all her time on twitter and facebook, and it’s really hard for me to keep track of what she’s doing (twitter in particular)! I’m worried about what she might be doing on there – is there any way to control it?
We asked Sally-Anne Rogers, an expert on social media and the author of the article, to answer:

A: Hello Sarah

This can be an understandable concern for parents as their child becomes absorbed in the cyber world, engaging as part of a friendship group and sharing their news and images. For this generation it is purely the way they communicate. I can remember as a teenager coming home and spending hours on the phone each evening talking to friends and having a very exasperated mother not understanding what on earth we found to talk about when I had been with them all day.

My advice would be to talk it over with your daughter – rather than try to control what she is doing (I assume she is using a smartphone), discover and take an interest in her world of communication (the social media sites rather than what she is actually talking about, you don’t want to be accused of spying).

I agree Facebook can be a real worry as it is a ‘walled garden’ and only one you can penetrate if the user gives you permission to do so. This is about educating your daughter on how to stay safe online – no different to the ‘stranger danger’ concept, just a different methodology.

Twitter, however, is transparent and unless she chooses to lock her account – not a practice usually adopted by teenagers – then you can see her activity for yourself. However, these online conversations can be misconstrued as teenagers adopt their own language: since when did the word ‘sick’ become a positive, and ‘shut up’ mean ‘get away’!

It really is better to gain her trust and just show a general interest in what she is doing via a casual mum and daughter chat. I suspect it won’t be deemed as cool for mum to actually take part in any of it, but in my experience as long as the conversation is non-confrontational and more about understanding how these things work, then they are quite happy to share their knowledge.

Do drop me an email and I would be happy to continue the conversation ‘off-line’.

Good luck!

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