Social Networks and Military Kids

Social networks have their uses.  I’m a firm believer in the usefulness and power of social networks.  As a work-from-home employee, I use social networks to see what my friends are up and feel a connection with the outside world while I’m chained to my computer.  I use social networks to pass along important, interesting, relevant and useful information to my friends.  Of late, I’ve discovered the awesomeness of daily deal sites and becoming a mayor on Foursquare and using social networks to share these.  If I find a Marines singing Britney video on YouTube, I can show everyone rather than tell them when I happen to run into them.

Social networks obviously have inherent drawbacks. It’s a paradise for predators, stalkers, bullies, and general creepers not otherwise classified.  They’re also another avenue for spreading viruses or airing family and friend drama. Most of us using social networks know these pros and cons already; it’s up to us to guide and keep our kids and teens safe against the seedier aspects of social networks.

I support kids being on social networks but under the guidance and supervision of their parents. Sadly, it’s the ones who don’t have parental oversight who are more prone to victimization online. However, I feel that teens, especially older ones (say 15 and up) should be exposed to these “grown up” things while under the tutelage of their parents to guide them, help them, counsel them. Under 15, I leave it to you Vigilant Parent, to decide your child’s readiness for status updates, tweets, and more.

Once your teen becomes an adult they’ll be able to sign up for social networks on their own and won’t have the knowledge to differentiate between appropriate posts and sharing versus having the experience to recognize dangerous people and posts. It’s easy for someone to get overwhelmed when first joining a social network, whether they’re 16 or 60, so for a kid to get the chance to experience that with their parents supervising is an opportunity for the child to gain their parent’s trust and explore social networking under their guidance at the same time.

For my 3 military kids, deployments and moving are the two biggest challenges they face. PCS’ing away from our friends and family is heart wrenching.  Social  networks help keep us connected more easily than ever before. For teenagers, whose worlds begin to revolve more around their friends and less around their parents, the ability to keep in touch with old friends can help to make moving easier on them.  They can stay in touch with what’s happening back at their old base, share what’s going on in their life as they settle into their new school and neighborhood, and connect more easily with the new friends in their new home.

For kids who have a deployed parent who’s on social networking sites, the deployed parent can keep an eye on what’s going on in their lives without being intrusive.  It’s more natural for these kids to share on Facebook than to write an email to dad detailing everything. Naturally, in addition to the standard safeguards for online activities, military kids need to also be taught about operational security, and what’s okay and not okay to share about their military-centered lives, in order to keep themselves and their military loved ones safe.

For more information, please consider visiting these sites:

Military Teen Online

Stop Cyberbullying

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