I was a Suzuki mom. My kids started violin lessons at age 3. We later moved beyond Suzuki, but I applied many of the things I learned as a Suzuki mom to later help my son with speech therapy when he was a preschooler.
Now, as I train parents, youth leaders, and teens on social media, basic tenets of Suzuki training apply to teaching teens to use it well.
- Learning begins young. Age 13 is the minimum for social media sites like Facebook. I support that minimum and also believe that’s a good time for parents to introduce their kids to limited social media use where they learn to use it well. It is easier to friend and guide a 13 year old than it is a 15 or 18 year old. Teach them well while they are more likely to listen. As we moved back driving ages, more teens have opted not to do any drivers ed but to simply get their licenses at age 18. And now studies are showing an increase in traffic fatalities among these 18 year olds because they never learned to drive well or with training. The same applies to social media.
- Nurture by love. Kids who feel loved and connected are going to be more likely to reflect that in their social media content. Once I heard a teen refer to another mom, “I feel sorry for her kids when they are sick. She complains on Facebook about it so much they must think she hates them.” What is she teaching them?
- Good examples inspire greatness. Parents and youth leaders who model using social media for good lead by example. Teach teens by example to promote their communities and encourage others. Kids learn to talk by listening to their parents. They are still listening – and reading – as teens.
- Listen. Suzuki parents listen to their kids play and help them improve, a little at a time, with positive encouragement. Sometimes I tell parents to see what their kids are doing on social media, and they refuse. Their kids might be asking for help or need some encouragement. Other times, parents listen, and we help their kids avoid driving off a cliff. Many parents have no clue what their kids are posting on Facebook or Twitter.
Savvy social media use will matter for teens when they pursue jobs, college entrance, and scholarships. Social media background checks are and will be the norm.
My kids know I can access their latest Facebook statuses with 2 clicks on my smartphone. In my parenting via social media classes, I tell the story of how I responded and what happened the day my phone joined the wrong teen’s Facebook profile to my daughter’s contact – and the OTHER girl posted an expletive ridden update about her family.
Families invest time and money helping their teens prep for college entrance exams. They often hire tutors if needed and make sure their kids have well-rounded outside activities.
It is now equally imperative that families work with teens on smart social media use that helps – and doesn’t hurt – their future college and career options.
Teens who use social media well, especially those who are funny, can set themselves above the pack at scholarship time.