By Kimberly Pietsch Miller
Loveland City School District assistant superintendent, teaching and learning
My daughter and I have a saying that we use as a reminder to think before you act. “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Sometimes we are joking, and sometimes we are serious… more often I am the serious one. But the words do make a point.
We all can do great things with social networking. Sharing, collaborating, connecting with old friends. There are so many ways to use social networking for positive outcomes. But like anything, technology also gives us, and our kids, the opportunity to make mistakes in a very public way. Just because you can tell everyone that you are angry at your best friend on Twitter, doesn’t mean you should. Just because you can post a picture on SnapChat, doesn’t mean you should.
So why is it that our smart, wonderful kids post some very unattractive things at times? Part of the issue is the frontal lobe. According to Dr. Adriana Galvan, director and principal investigator of the Developmental Neuroscience Laboratory at UCLA, the human brain develops into our twenties. And the part of the brain that develops last is the pre-frontal cortex. This is the portion of the brain that helps us to consider the consequences of our actions. It’s why our smart kids don’t always make good choices and why they may “post” before thinking. *
In addition, you also need to be aware of the types of pages your child might be viewing. It is not uncommon for teens to create pages or accounts that are specifically intended for shock value. For example, there is a Twitter account that asks Ohio teens to confess to acts that they have committed. Having viewed the feed, I can say that you will hope your child is not posting there. Students have also created pages aimed at criticizing an authority figure such as a principal or teacher. Students may be invited to “favorite, like, or retweet” the information on these types of sites thereby connecting their names to the information.
So what is a parent to do?
Turn everything off?
Petition Congress to outlaw social networking?
No, the answer is that our teens still need our oversight to help them with their decision-making. Talk to your teens about what they post and what social networking sites they use; then follow them. We have a rule with our daughter that we are friends, followers, and connections on her sites. If she blocks us, we take the phone and the computer (because we pay for the tools and the access). Does she always like it? No, but that’s okay. We’re not really her friends anyway… we are her parents.
* TEDx Youth (2013, February 12). Insight into the teenage brain: Adriana Galvan at
TEDxYouth@Caltech. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWUkW4s3XxY.