Social Media offers an opportunity to teach and model empathy to our kids. Long before our kids design social media profiles of their own, parents who are using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media should be thoughtful about how we model our participation in these networks to our children. Making sure we demonstrate empathy for our own online friends and ensuring we consider who will read our posts is such an important way to prepare our kiddos for their own highly connected future. It is hard to resist sharing images of our gorgeous children on Facebook, Twitter, and other social spaces. But if you do share images or observations about your children, how can you respect their boundaries and privacy as well as teach them about empathy for both the viewers and the subject of the photographs? If your child is old enough to understand the idea of photos being shared--certainly if they are 8 or older--you should ask their permission before sharing pictures.
For younger children--imagine them as a sensitive young tween-ager or 27 -year-old job seeker. Do you think they might they have ANY objection? If so; pause. Remember, all social media will likely be searchable archives in the future where your child's peers can search for them by name or even by face. If something is irresistible to record, consider e-mailing just to grandma, or starting a good old fashioned family album with printed photos that your child can one day edit when their future spouse comes to the house to meet you.
Another way to teach young children about empathy in your own social media use is to thoughtfully plan to not share pictures of birthday parties or other simchas. So as soon as they are old enough to be making an invite list that includes some kids while leaving out others, you can talk about why we don't share birthday party pics on social media: because it is likely to make someone feel left out.
Remember the ways your network may indirectly correspond with theirs. If your 9-year-old has a crush, and you think it is cute, you can share the story verbally with your best friend, without risking embarrassment of your child with broader exposure that might get back to them and make them feel their privacy has been violated.
Obviously, we also want to avoid negative speech--criticizing others on social media or using unkind words about things that they have shared.
In the end, we want to mentor our kids more than we monitor them, thereby demonstrating true social media menschlichkeit!
BIO: Dr. Devorah Heitner is the founder and director of Raising Digital Natives, a resource for parents and schools seeking advice on how help children thrive in a world of digital connectedness. An experienced speaker, workshop leader, and consultant, Dr. Heitner serves as a professional development resource for schools and corporations wishing to cultivate a culture of thoughtful and empathic digital citizenship.Here is her TedX on Raising Thoughtful Kids in the Digital Age. Dr. Heitner has a Ph.D. in Media/Technology and Society from Northwestern University and has taught at DePaul University, Street Level Youth Media, and Northwestern University. She is delighted to be raising her own digital native, too.