By Sharon Miller Cindrich | If you want to stay plugged-in to your grandkids via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram — and not embarrass or annoy them into unfriend-ing you — follow these social media tips for grandparents. |
My child wants to remove his grandmother from his Facebook friend list because she makes embarrassing comments online. What should I do?
According to a study last year by Microsoft and AARP, kids are connecting with grandparents in unprecedented — and sometimes slightly embarrassing — ways, thanks to social networks.
More than 50 perfect of the over-50 crowd are online, and the benefits of cross-generational connections for kids can include a bond with culture and family history. Grandparents benefit by staying active, learning technology, and feeling a sense of purpose.
As great as those connections can be, teens and grandparents are often navigating uncharted territory.
While technology can provide a wonderful opportunity to connect, it also can be a source of frustration and anxiety for both parties. Parents can help by helping teens understand how much it means to grandparents to see activities and photos online. On the other end, grandparents can be sensitive to the fact that tweens and teens tend to be extra emotional and self-conscious.
Connecting between the generations can work by following these basics:
- Keep comments simple. Teens are easy to embarrass. And a seemingly benign comment like “Way to go, super kid!” can be mortifying to a teen in front of the friends on their social network.
- Ask before posting photos. Your teen may not appreciate being tagged in a photo where he is politely modeling a handmade sweater from Grandma. Grandparents should ask before posting photos of their grandchildren.
- Put it in context. Teens use the Internet to express themselves—posting song lyrics, political views, and social comments that they may not normally share in a conversation with their grandparents. Grandparents should remember that what they see and read online may be easily misinterpreted.
- Try other communication. If problems persist, a weekly email, conversation over Skype, or phone call may be a welcome trade-off for both sides.
This article first appeared in Chicago Parent, January 2014.
Sharon Miller Cindrich is the plugged-in parent of two tech-savvy kids, a syndicated columnist, and the author of E-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids and A Smart Girl’s Guide to the Internet.