Back-to-School with Social Media: What’s On Your PARENT Checklist?

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LOVE it or DREAD it, back to school is exciting! Teachers prepare new classroom materials while we parents flock to Target to buy our kids new tennis shoes and every single thing on our children’s school supply checklists (because NO ONE wants to fail out of the gate over a missing zippered binder!).

However, somewhere between making haircut appointments and filling out emergency contact cards, moms and dads are overlooking a very important ‘student success’ check-off task:

The Social Media Review.  

This is not on the traditional back-to-school to-do list, but a social media review may be the most important step an adult can take in helping a student have a happy, productive school year.

Parents, do I feel your anxiety level notching up a bit?

Are you thinking it might be easier to find your student that required hand-held calculator last seen on Amazon in 2011 rather than sit him or her down to reveal how much you don’t know about current social media trends?

You are not alone. Most of us parents didn’t grow up online, so we’re a little behind in our social media parenting game. Good news: it’s never too late to catch up, and BETTER news: a little parent preparation and the 3 MMMs make the catch-up and review process simple.

Parent Prep

1) The first thing we need to understand about social media is that it’s all about RELATIONSHIPS. The technology is cool, but the ‘social’ is what our kids find addictive.

As parents, it’s natural to help our kids with their social lives – we nudge them into scouting or youth groups or team sports, and we participate to confirm that they’re engaging with friends, following the group rules and understanding social boundaries.

Oakland SchoolsBut now, with computers, tablets and smartphones, a big piece of our kids’ social lives has moved online. When our kids pick up a smartphone, it’s like they put on a Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak and disappear off our parent radar. (And when did social boundaries stretch to include sexting?!)

2) To get our kids back ON our parent radar, we parents have to get ON social media. This means using texting, and creating our own accounts to follow our kids on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

If your children are elementary-aged and too young for a social media account, or if they’re older and stick with smartphone apps like Snapchat or kik, you will still glean social parenting knowledge from participating on the major social media platforms…

3) AND social parenting knowledge is going to put you into a helpful partnership with your tech savvy kids – giving you the familiarity to undertake ongoing, age appropriate social media reviews using the 3 MMMs as your guide.

The 3 MMM Overview

-MANAGE the internet for your elementary-schoolers; reinforce what they are learning at school about digital citizenship, internet safety and cyber friendship. The computer stays in full view at all times; gaming takes place with, or in front of, mom or dad. You are the keeper of all passwords.

-MONITOR your middle-schoolers with regular “safe checks” of their phones, tablets and laptops. Discuss HOW to handle bullying, social drama or sexual situations that occur online (use real scenarios and practice detailed problem-solving). You are the keeper of all passwords.

 -MENTOR your high-schoolers in preparation for them pursuing a career or leaving home for college. Help them each create a healthy online identity using positive social credentials on the social media platforms viewed by college admissions officers and future employers. You are the keeper of all passwords [teens may argue; but if you pay for internet/data usage, you get the passwords! Use discretion; your job is to mentor, not meddle].

Social media doesn’t have to be a nerve-wracking component of your children’s social life. In place of worrying about every bad app that pops up, give your kids the information and oversight to make good choices. Everyone makes online mistakes – but the 3 MMMs can mitigate the damage through your proactive online presence…

START your family back-to-school social media discussion at the beginning of the school year, then consciously move to incorporate the 3 MMM practices into daily cyber-family living. Remember, social media is about relationships, and using it to connect to your kids is the best old-school use for our new world technology.


Parenting Guidelines: Technology Rules for Every Age (PDF)

VIDEO – Tweens, Teens & Social Media (25 minutes)

HELP SHEET – Tweens, Teens & Social Media (PDF)

Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship Curriculum (for parents & educators)


Blog Editor: Jean MacLeod, Communications/Oakland Schools


 Oakland Schools • 2111 Pontiac Lake Road • Waterford, MI 48328-2736 • 248.209.2000

Oakland Schools

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