Two Great Social Media Resources for Parents

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Instagram has put together a great resource for parents who would like to learn more about its ultra-popular app and also keep up with what their kids are up to with this social media tool.  Know How To Talk With Your Teen About Instagram: A Parent’s Guide is available both as a PDF and in a web-based form

The guide does a great job highlighting how parents can support their students in the following areas: 

  • Managing Privacy
  • Managing Interactions
  • Managing Time

A second great resource is a new Common Sense Media Report titled Social Media, Social Life: Teens Reveal Their Experiences.

A few of the key findings from this report are as follows:

  • Only a very few teens say that using social media has a negative effect on how they feel about themselves; many more say it has a positive effect.
  • Social media has a heightened role— both positive and negative—in the lives of more vulnerable teens.
  • Social media is an important avenue of creative expression for many teens.

As both a parent and an educator, I encourage others to take a little bit of time to read through these two resources.  The Common Sense Media report on teen social media use is extremely valuable because the feedback comes directly from teens. Instead of speculating on the habits and the impact of these habits on our students, we have valuable insights directly from the source. The graphic below is just one example.cs_socialmediasociallife_infographic

Do You Have A Cool Photo for our Instagram Photo of the Day?! Weekly BPS Blog Update (Edition 4)

The post below is actually a copy of an e-mail that I sent our teachers today to continue to promote our Burlington Public Schools Blog which shares the great work going on across our school district. It is the fourth post in a series that I will continue throughout the school year.

The number of Burlington Public Schools blogs and websites that have been shared with me has jumped to 92!  I am hoping that we will hit 100. You can check out the entire list here if you are interested. If you haven’t had a chance to share yours, then please enter it here on this Google form when you have a chance. If you have been thinking about starting a classroom blog or website and feel intimidated then please reach out to me or one of the members of our technology team for support. 

The posts below are the ones that have appeared on the blog over the last five school days.  Please feel free to forward any student work that you would like to show off for a post. Even if you don’t have a blog, I am happy to turn the work into an original post. 
Only 159 more posts to go… 
 One More Thing This Week – Submit A Photo for our BPS Instagram Photo of the Day!

Have you had a chance to check out our district Instagram account? Even if you haven’t please consider sharing a picture to show off you and/or your students or colleagues in action. We post one at the end of each day and share it on our district Facebook page.  So far, a couple of pirates (see the picture below) from Francis Wyman have been our most popular photo with over 900 views on Facebook!

Do You Have Any Idea What Your Kids Are Posting Online?

I have spent a fair amount of time lately checking out the activity of some students and what they are posting online.  I am interested in the behavior of my kids online and the kids that they associate with. I have also spent time checking out the social media behaviors of a few other middle and high school aged relatives as well as some students in Burlington. As I read these Twitter posts (aka Tweets), Instagram posts, and Facebook posts I am certain that the parents of these kids are not aware of the conversations that their children are having online.  

Before I cite the negative uses of social media I am seeing, I want to say that most of the communication I see online from students is appropriate. However, I have seen examples of elementary students poking fun at classmates and using profanity, I have seen middle school students using inappropriate language, and I have seen high school students make posts using sexually suggestive language and also use a great deal of profanity.

I have a few areas of concern when it comes to this “over-sharing” that is happening online. What I mean by “over-sharing” is that these young people are sharing too much information online.   Either they do not know that the things that they post are accessible to anyone on the internet and can be copied with a quick screen shot or they don’t care. My experience tells me that it is a bit of both with younger students being a bit clueless to how things work and the older students being a bit more carefree about it (although many are also clueless).

Of course the simplest solution is for our kids to understand that the boundaries for responsible communication do not change whether you are face-to-face, on the phone, texting, tweeting, posting, etc.  But while we continue to promote respectful behavior, how can we get parents more in the loop?  Our kids have a lot more avenues for communication than we did as parents and that is not all bad. However, I think we have an obligation to get to know all of the places that are students spend time whether they are physical spaces or online spaces. 

One of the most popular social media resources with my own kids and a lot of their friends right now is Instagram.  I know that it is also popular in Burlington and we have students at every grade level using it. As we plan for our final Parent Technology Night in June, I want to share some resources below that provide a great overview of Instagram for parents.

Here’s what parents need to know:
  • Users officially need to be 13 and older to start an Instagram account. I do recommend enforcing this rule at home because I’m not entirely convinced that younger kids are mature enough to use these kinds of social media applications.
  • Lay down some ground rules, and stress that if the rules are broken it is cause for immediate account deletion.

    Our rules are:

  1. Only follow people you know personally. (This might be tricky, because user names are sometimes “TeddyBear456”.)
  2. Never share any personal information about yourself, where you live and go to school. 
  3. Don’t use geolocation services near personal landmarks, namely, home and school. In other words, turn off the option that allows others to know the exact location from where you’re publishing your photo.
  4. Never publish anything you wouldn’t want your parents, teachers, and grandparents to see. Photos can be shared widely, with anyone, in a matter of seconds.
  5. Practice the golden rule and treat others as you would like to be treated when you’re using Instagram. T.H.I.N.K. before you comment on a friend’s photo: is it True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, Kind?
  6. Do not upload or tag photos of other people without their permission. If you snap a photo of your friends, always ask them before sharing it on Instagram.
It’s also good idea to make your child’s account private, otherwise anyone signed into Instagram can view photos on a public user’s profile (which is easily accessed at
As a parent, my job is to:
  • Follow my daughter on Instagram.
  • Peek at her photos and leave comments on the ones I really like to encourage those creative efforts and keep the juices flowing.
  • Check the comments on her photos every once in awhile and see who’s following who.
  • Chat about the activity on her account every once in awhile together. e.g. “Did you see that great photo that your friend TeddyBear456 posted?”  
That subtly lets her know that I’m in the loop, and a pretty hip mama to boot! (Ha ha.) Are you on Instagram? Are your kids? Do you have guidelines at home? 

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Are You Sure Your Child Isn’t Using Social Media?

What Apps Is Your Child Using?
Just because your child does not have a Facebook or Twitter account does not mean they are not using social media resources.  I have been hearing rumblings from various communities (including Burlington) about elementary and middle school-aged children making poor choices with social media resources.  I am certain that in many cases that the parents of these kids are unaware that their kids are over-sharing personal information, posting and viewing inappropriate pictures, and having inappropriate conversations with friends AND STRANGERS.
The bottom line here is that parents need to check on every app at that their children are adding to their iPod, iPad, iPhone, or other web-enabled device. We have moved so quickly from the days when our biggest web-based concern regarding our children was a desktop computer in a common area of our homes. As we are well aware, many of the gadgets that they carry in their pockets can do so much more than those desktops could ever do. With new social media apps and websites coming onto the scene at a breathtaking pace, it is not surprising that parents can’t keep up. 
A Little Advice For Parents

So as I navigate this landscape with my own kids, I want to let you know that just keeping your kids off of Facebook and Twitter is a far cry from keeping them off of social media.  In an effort to promote awareness, I have a few questions for parents…
  1. Do you know what apps are on your child’s iPad, iPod, Smartphone, etc.?
  2. Do you know which apps are connected to social media resources?
  3. Do you monitor the social media accounts that you have allowed your child to create?
  4. Have you heard of snapchat
If you answered no to at least one of the above questions then you are probably in the majority of parents out there.  If you answered yes to most of the above questions then please share your knowledge with the parents you know to help them stay on top of what is happening.  The fact of the matter is that these sites typically require a user to be at least 13 years of age to register and many kids lie about their age in order to sign up which raises an additional issue.  
In regards to Snapchat, you get bonus points if you know that one.  Snapachat has become known by many as a tool for sexting as a recent Mashable post describes.  The way it works is that an individual may send another individual a picture and the sender decides how long the person receiving the picture can view it (from 1-10 seconds) and then the picture disappears “forever.”  Of course since lesson number-one in the whole social media game is that anything you say online can follow you “forever,” we know this is not true.
From a parent’s perspective, it is tough to connect the current experience that our children are having with social media resources to our own experiences growing up.  All we really had was a telephone to connect with our friends and have social conversations. In addition, most of us had some time limits in place when it came to these conversations. In my opinion, it would make sense for us all to at least have some idea of how much time are kids are spending online and what they are up to.
Some Resources For Parents
Common Sense Media has some great resources for parents to help them set appropriate ground rules for their kids. It also provides parents with great app reviews, like the one below for Snapchat. You can search with the box in the upper right hand corner for a review of most apps and find out some useful information before deciding whether or not it is appropriate for your child.  
We will continue to provide workshops for parents to learn about these issues, but in the meantime I encourage parents to check out a few of the following:
Tweens Secret Lives Online – The Wall Street Journal
If you feel you are a parent who has a good handle on this issue, then please share some of the practices that you think are working well! If you are parent who feels lost and needs immediate assistance, please contact me and I would be happy to offer some advice/assistance (