Written on October 16, 2012 at 10:58 am , by Rosalind Wiseman
Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.
Q. My sweet 14-year-old looks too sexy in her Facebook photo. How can I get her to take it down?
A. I’m going to assume it’s just slightly too sexy and not a provocative pic where it looks like she’s topless in front of a stripper bar. Start by presenting information to your daughter from a third party, like a movie or book. I’d recommend watching the documentary Miss Representation with her. (You could even host a screening party with other parents and girls so you can discuss it as a group afterward.) You want your daughter to understand the pressures girls face to present themselves in highly sexual ways and what the consequences are for her self-esteem. A few days after the movie, ask her to think about her FB profile picture and putting another in its place. Yes, you can tell her that she must change it or she doesn’t get Facebook, but if you only do that, then you’re missing the larger point: having your daughter develop a sense of how she wants to appear to the world.
Do you have a parenting dilemma for Rosalind? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.
Written on September 7, 2012 at 11:45 am , by Christina Tynan-Wood
My son studies with Facebook open on his laptop. I have tried fighting this. But this year, I decided to make peace with it. I insist he do his homework in the family room while I work or cook dinner so I can redirect his attention if Facebook (or YouTube) becomes too distracting. With this oversight, I’ve decided his current group of friends are helping him enjoy school so they are welcome to stop by for a virtual study group.
Facebook gives him a little company as he works. He can ask a friend from class if they understood the math or if he has the homework right. He can share a joke and make the homework hour more fun. (And YouTube is where he goes to watch a math lesson from Sal Khan at the Khan Academy, which is why he is getting good grades in math.) To make peace with the things that worry me, I added, “Talk about/Clean up Facebook” to my to-do list for back to school. I figure if Facebook has become part of school, we will do it right. So before I got down to the cleaning up the virtual house (see below) for the school year, I decided we needed to talk about appropriate online behavior.
Saying bad things about teachers on social media, for example, can get you into a lot of trouble. I shared a story I’d heard over dinner about a local teacher expelling a student for slanderous comments made on Twitter. We talked about cyber-bullying and how to avoid being either bullied or bully. I discovered that both of my kids wanted to know the rules so they could avoid accidentally breaking them. In fact, they seemed a little confused about what they could say face-to-face versus online.
Essentially I was explaining something that’s obvious to those of us who grew up before the Internet but is apparently not clear to those who have grown up having as much social interaction online as off. Facebook is a form of publishing. What you post there can have a very long life and get shared with people you didn’t intend to share it with. It is safest when it’s used for sharing happy statements (things you “like” rather than those you don’t), profound observations, and statements you don’t mind people associating with your identity. If you are angry and need to blow off steam, pick up the phone and talk to someone. Save the Facebook commentary for comments you are willing to share with everyone , including the thing or person you are talking about.
After our chat, it was time to spiff up their Facebook pages so they could be proud to share them with friends and teachers at school. As it happens, Facebook recently sent me some tips on this. I love getting tips from the pros. So here they are:
- Say Cheese: Make a great first impression by filling the wide open space at the top of your timeline with a unique image that represents you best (a great summer trip, your dog or a favorite photo with you and your friends) and shows off your creativity or interests. It’s the first thing people see when they visit your timeline. Make it memorable.
- Share Memories: Share and highlight your most memorable posts, photos and life events on your timeline, what camp you went to this summer, a few classes you may be excited for this fall and any of the milestones you may have hit since school ended a few months ago. Use your timeline to share your life story from beginning to now with friends and family. Highlight or star photos you specifically want friends to see so they appear bigger on your timeline. Edit posts to make them visible to only you or a select group of friends.
- Curate: Go through your activity log, scroll through every story and adjust the settings on photos or posts from your timeline so all your friends (or just certain groups of friends, family, close friends, coworkers), can see them. Sometimes not everyone (especially your teachers) need to see everything that happened over the summer.
Written on April 18, 2012 at 10:05 am , by familycircle
The two mail order dresses arrived! I have to admit, one of them was just stunning and at a great price. But M felt it was too fancy, too serious and maybe even too “mature.” Given the department store’s wonderful policy of free shipping and free returns, we may hold on to that one for a while, as a back-up, or even to use as a formal dress to wear in college. I think it’s good to have a few wardrobe options.
Unfortunately, I’m out of the dress shopping job this week while I’m out of town on business. M is going to have to go with a friend to yet another dress boutique in LA. Who knows? Maybe she will get lucky or feel less pressure without me. If not, you may recall we have a college trip coming and that still gives us a chance to shop in New York. (Someone should warn Macy’s Herald Square!)
So let’s stop to discuss another aspect of all this prom prep: the online world.
I committed a parenting social media faux pas and I need to share it with you. When my first blog entry went up on Momster, I linked to it on my Facebook page. I allowed the accompanying photo to appear on my Facebook newsfeed. And then, (horrors!) I tagged M in the post! That meant all her friends suddenly saw the item, with the link to Momster and the photo of the dress. Including the dress that isn’t her actual DRESS, if you know what I mean.
OMG! The drama that ensued! First, M was annoyed that her boyfriend saw the image and “MOM! He isn’t supposed to see the dress!!” Huh? I thought that was a wedding rule, not a prom rule. And then, the comments from her friends began, because they assumed she’d selected that red dress as the one. While all of them said they loved it, M felt compelled to post and re-post her statement that “THIS isn’t my prom dress! It’s just one we tried on!” So, the key lesson I learned is to avoid tagging her in my prom blogging, at least for the time being.
And I learned a neat trick our kids are using to keep their fashion faux pas to a minimum on the big night. As each girl selects her final dress choice, she uploads an image to a Facebook page (a RESTRICTED Facebook page for just the girls) to make sure no one gets the identical dress. That is brilliant! At my prom, there were three girls wearing the same ivory lace Gunny Sack dress and I was one of them. All night long, we each staked out our section of the dance floor and tried to stay out of photos with each other. It was a little upsetting (though very funny now). It’s quite a relief that with this wise use of technology, that’s one issue our kids can avoid. (Although I must admit, now I wish we had taken a photo of the three of us in our matching outfits.)
Ask your teens how they are deciding what to wear for the big night. Will your daughter’s dress match her date’s outfit? Do they have a group planning page? What about corsages or flowers (and do they still do that?) Will there be dinner before or dinner after? Group photos at one house? After-parties? Do you have a curfew for your teen and will you lift it for prom night? Get those conversations going now and while you’re at it, maybe you and your teen should set some ground rules for each other about how to use social media wisely. Just as they may want you to limit any mentions of prom stuff in your own Facebook or other social networks, you should ask them to be smart about it too. Talk about making sure their social network activity is thoughtful and considerate of others. Not everyone has determined their prom plan yet and may be upset by seeing what your teen is posting. And as we move towards the big night, that intensity will increase. Discuss how to post images, videos and comments while respecting privacy and feelings.
Marian Merritt is a mother of three (two teens and a tween) and works for security company Norton by Symantec. You can read her internet safety blog atwww.norton.com/askmarian. She serves on Family Circle’s Tween/Teen Advisory Board and has written the award-winning Norton Family Online Safety Guide, now in its third edition.