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famil using tablet.jpgI think every kid should know how to swim. It’s one of those crucial life skills that must be in everyone’s arsenal. That’s why my husband and I introduced our kids to water at the earliest possible opportunity. First in the bath and the shower (okay, so maybe these are more about hygiene), and then we graduated to sprinklers and inflatable pools, wading pools, beaches and lakes. As soon as the kids were old enough we signed them up for swimming lessons.

Our kids learned that water is fun, but also dangerous, and we told them they had to be careful around water. Drowning is a harsh reality, so we drilled water safety into them early on.

I think our approach to social media should be the same as it is for swimming. Shouldn’t we teach our kids about the joys and the perils of it, instead of just tossing them in and hoping they can keep their heads up above water – swim, not sink?

My kids are 13 and 15, and they spent their formative childhood years without video games, iPods, FaceTime, iPads and PVRs. We had lots of books, board games, a record player, and regular cable. I can’t imagine what it’s like growing up digital, but I recognize that social media for kids today is what the telephone was for me when I was a kid. It’s a way to communicate, to connect, to belong to a tribe – and this is important.

socialmedia blocks.jpgBut the technology we use today has elevated everything, created new concerns.  Bullying, copyright, privacy: these are issues that we’re talking about openly around the dinner table on a regular basis. What’s right? What’s wrong? Sometimes the answers aren’t clear, but we keep talking.

One of our regular social media-related conversations is about “likes.” As a parent, this has been a very challenging issue, and one that has been very difficult to resolve.

As many of you probably already know when you use social media your audience can tell you, in one click, whether they “like” something (in the language of Facebook), “heart” it on Instagram, or give it a "thumbs up" on YouTube. Unfortunately, many kids who are growing up with these social media tools use the number of “likes” their content generates to measure their self-worth. It’s very hard not to fall into this trap, and doubly hard to tell kids to ignore the number of likes that their content is generating.

We do our best, as parents, to remind our kids that it’s not important what other people think about their posts. What’s important is that they themselves like it and are comfortable in their own skin. (This, of course, is easier said than done.)

The world of social media is a big one to just jump into. This is why I really like the idea of creating a family social media account for kids who are old enough to know about social media and under the age of 13, which is the age minimum set out by Facebook and Instagram. Kids who are 10 or 11 are the perfect age for a family social media account, and tend to be the most receptive to the idea.

Setting up a family account gives kids a gentle immersion into the world of social media. It’s an opportunity for kids and parents to review and learn about big issues such as privacy and bullying, but it also gives families a cool project to work on together, sometimes with really creative results. (And as an added benefit, kids, who are often so quick to adapt to new technologies, can teach mom and dad, or grandma and grandpa, about them too!)

So which social media sites can a family join together? Here are a few of my suggestions:

1.   Family Instagram accounts
Our dog Piper has her own Instagram account, but since she doesn’t have opposable thumbs it’s controlled entirely by the human members of her family. It’s been really fun, and we all contribute to this ongoing project. The reason I like Instagram for families is that it gives my kids the opportunity to be really creative using both words and photos.
Want to learn more about Instagram? Check out MediaSmarts' Parent Guide.

 

2.   Family Facebook accounts
Just as you can have a personal profile on Facebook, you can also start a family account. This is a great solution for young tweens who are chomping at the bit and can’t wait to get their feet wet. Signing up is the easy part - the hard part is establishing the rules of use. The Think Before You Share Tips created by MediaSmarts and Facebook can help you figure some of that stuff out.
   
3.   Family YouTube accounts
Teaching kids how to shoot and edit video is fun on its own, and the experience can give kids special insight into how visual media is made. This will fuel conversations when you watch movies and television shows together. And who knows, maybe you’re launching the career of the next Steven Spielberg! For more parent tips on Youtube, check out my blog post on this topic.

Family social media accounts are a great way of teaching our kids good media literacy skills. Talking about how to navigate the social media waters early will give you and your kids a chance to talk about and understand the importance of privacy, copyright issues, appropriate sharing and all the other things that will make your child a good “netizen”.  What’s not to like, heart, or thumbs up about that?

Andrea Tomkins 75.jpg

Andrea Tomkins is a parent blogger with MediaSmarts. She is the mother of two, and can be found on Twitter @missfish. She has written this blog post in support of Media Literacy Week which runs from November 3-7. This year's theme is "Youth & Social Networking: Creative, Connected, and Collaborative”.

nine_340x427.jpgBrain Development

  • is highly concerned about fairness
  • may be a perfectionist
  • uses reference books with increasing skill
  • becomes immersed in a hobby or project, then drops it for another
  • generally follows instructions
  • is developing personal standards of right and wrong
  • accelerated growth of the prefrontal cortex continues
  • organization for memory continues
  • organization and logic of thought increases
  • capable of concrete problem-solving
  • shows interest in reading fictional stories, magazines, and how-to books
  • may develop special interest in collections or hobbies
  • fantasizes and daydreams about the future
  • enjoys planning and organizing tasks
  • becomes more product and goal oriented
  • has great ideas and intentions but has difficulty following through
  • enjoys games with more complex rules
  • from 8-9 children learn best through positive feedback due to the development of their cognitive controls centre in the brain, meaning negative feedback, or learning from your mistakes, remains a challenge

 

Inside the Brain

  • the brain strengthens its ability to learn as myelination of fibres speeds associations between senses and ideas
  • some research suggests by age 8 or 9, synaptic growth in some areas of the brain will be limited compared to the early years and will continue to be throughout life
  • children are no longer learning to read but are reading to learn

 

Emotional Development

  • becomes self-absorbed and introspective
  • tends to be critical of self
  • begins to see that parents and authority figures can make mistakes and are not always right
  • often likes rules, rituals, secret codes and made-up languages
  • has better control of anger
  • shows interest in opposite sex by teasing, joking, showing off
  • tends to see things are right or wrong, with no room for difference of opinion
  • takes comfort in knowing others experience similar troubling feelings

 

Social Development

  • has ideas and interests independent from parents
  • does not like anything "different"
  • enjoys being a member of a club
  • has increased interest in competitive sports
  • may belittle or defy adult authority
  • prefers spending time with friends than with parents
  • may sometimes be verbally cruel to classmates with harsh ‘put downs’ and snide remarks
  • wants to talk, dress, and act just like friends
  • is involved in informal clubs and small groups of the same sex
  • begins to just sit and talk with friends

 

Physical Development

  • has increased body strength and hand dexterity
  • shows improved coordination and reaction time
  • girls are generally as much as two years ahead of boys in physical maturity
  • girls may begin to menstruate
  • acquires greater small muscle coordination
  • has increasing dexterity
  • favours active, highly charged games and sports
  • wants to excel in sports and recreational skills
  • becomes more interested in clothing and appearance
  • laughs at bathroom humor

As every child is unique and there is a wide range of what’s ‘normal’ at every age, it’s important to remember these lists are guidelines only. If you are concerned about your child’s development, see your doctor.

Sources: AboutKidsHealth, The Hospital for Sick Children, Health A-Z, Developmental Stages, Ontario Ministry of Child and Youth Services, Ontario Early Years Centres: A Place for Parents and Their Children,The Developing Brain: Birth to Age Eight, by Marilee Sprenger, Your Child’s Growing Mind: Brain Development and Learning from Birth to Adolescence, by Jane M. Healy, Ages and Stages, by Lesia Oesterreich, M.S.,extension human development specialist, Human Development and Family Studies, Iowa State University and “Learning from mistakes only happens after age 12, study suggests,” from Science Daily, Sept. 27, 2008.

growing_up_digital_644x362.jpgBrain Development

  • is eager to learn and master new skills
  • is proud of doing things well
  • is concerned about personal capabilities
  • has internalized standards of right and wrong to some degree
  • children are no longer learning to read but are reading to learn
  • shows interest in reading fictional stories, magazines, and how-to books
  • may develop special interest in collections or hobbies
  • fantasizes and daydreams about the future
  • enjoys planning and organizing tasks
  • becomes more product and goal oriented
  • has great ideas and intentions but has difficulty following through
  • enjoys games with more complex rules

 

Inside the Brain

  • accelerated growth of the prefrontal cortex continues
  • organization for memory continues
  • the brain strengthens its ability to learn as myelination of fibres speeds associations between senses and ideas

 

Emotional Development

  • fluctuates between dependent child and independent pre-teen
  • becomes increasingly self-conscious
  • begins to see that parents and authority figures can make mistakes and are not always right
  • often likes rules, rituals, secret codes and made-up languages
  • has better control of anger
  • shows interest in opposite sex by teasing, joking, showing off
  • tends to see things are right or wrong, with no room for difference of opinion

 

Social Development

  • does not want to be "different"
  • confides constantly in best friend
  • seeks approval for being "good" from significant people
  • becomes preoccupied with the opposite sex
  • enjoys being a member of a club
  • has increased interest in competitive sports
  • may belittle or defy adult authority
  • prefers spending time with friends than with parents
  • may sometimes be verbally cruel to classmates with harsh ‘put downs’ and snide remarks
  • relates to peer group intensely and abides by group decisions
  • succumbs to peer pressure more readily
  • continues to participate in small groups of same sex
  • can be fickle

 

Physical Development

  • has increased body strength and hand dexterity
  • shows improved coordination and reaction time
  • girls are generally as much as two years ahead of boys in physical maturity
  • girls may begin to menstruate
  • is energetic and spirited
  • physical growth and development varies enormously among this age group
  • is usually awkward
  • strives to be physically fit
  • is fascinated with how the body works
  • continues to revel in bathroom humor
  • may be curious about drugs, alcohol, and tobacco

As every child is unique and there is a wide range of what’s ‘normal’ at every age, it’s important to remember these lists are guidelines only. If you are concerned about your child’s development, see your doctor.

Sources: AboutKidsHealth, The Hospital for Sick Children, Health A-Z, Developmental Stages, Ontario Ministry of Child and Youth Services, Ontario Early Years Centres: A Place for Parents and Their Children,The Developing Brain: Birth to Age Eight, by Marilee Sprenger, Your Child’s Growing Mind: Brain Development and Learning from Birth to Adolescence, by Jane M. Healy, Ages and Stages, by Lesia Oesterreich, M.S.,extension human development specialist, Human Development and Family Studies, Iowa State University and “Learning from mistakes only happens after age 12, study suggests,” from Science Daily, Sept. 27, 2008.

12_yr_old_500x345.jpgBrain Development

  • has an increasing attention and concentration span
  • strives to succeed
  • has strong opinions
  • begins to understand the motives behind the behaviour of another
  • children begin to manipulate abstract ideas
  • shows interest in reading fictional stories, magazines, and how-to books
  • may develop special interest in collections or hobbies
  • fantasizes and daydreams about the future
  • enjoys planning and organizing tasks
  • becomes more product and goal oriented
  • has great ideas and intentions but has difficulty following through
  • enjoys games with more complex rules

 

Inside the Brain

  • due to continued growth of their cognitive control centers, children may not yet be able to learn from negative feedback (e.g. learn from their mistakes)
  • from now into adulthood, the prefrontal cortex of the frontal lobes, often called the ‘brain’s brain,’ is a major focus of growth
  • while the first ten years of life are dedicated to the development of sensory lobes, the second ten years show great development of executive functions in the frontal lobe of the brain

 

Emotional Development

  • may be experiencing sudden, dramatic, emotional changes associated with puberty
  • mature one moment, immature the next
  • begins to see that parents and authority figures can make mistakes and are not always right
  • often likes rules, rituals, secret codes and made-up languages
  • has better control of anger
  • shows interest in opposite sex by teasing, joking, showing off
  • tends to see things are right or wrong, with no room for difference of opinion
  • tends to conceal feelings
  • is hard on self and ultra-sensitive to criticism

 

Social Development

  • wants parental assistance, but may resist when offered
  • is critical of parents
  • is concerned with prestige and popularity
  • likes to belong to a group and be like others
  • enjoys being a member of a club
  • has increased interest in competitive sports
  • may belittle or defy adult authority
  • prefers spending time with friends than with parents
  • may sometimes be verbally cruel to classmates with harsh ‘put downs’ and snide remarks
  • becomes quite faddish
  • spends about twice as much time on weekends with friends as with parents
  • friendships may change due to different levels of maturity
  • is acutely aware of the opposite sex

 

Physical Development

  • has increased body strength and hand dexterity
  • shows improved coordination and reaction time
  • girls are generally as much as two years ahead of boys in physical maturity
  • girls may begin to menstruate
  • may begin to grow rapidly
  • may look out of proportion
  • may have an appetite that fluctuates sharply
  • may tire easily and appear lazy (growth spurts drain energy)
  • is preoccupied with, and self-conscious about, appearance
  • enjoys observing or participating in competitive sports
  • is keenly interested in learning about body changes
  • may be curious about drugs, alcohol, and tobacco

As every child is unique and there is a wide range of what’s ‘normal’ at every age, it’s important to remember these lists are guidelines only. If you are concerned about your child’s development, see your doctor.

Sources: AboutKidsHealth, The Hospital for Sick Children, Health A-Z, Developmental Stages, Ontario Ministry of Child and Youth Services, Ontario Early Years Centres: A Place for Parents and Their Children,The Developing Brain: Birth to Age Eight, by Marilee Sprenger, Your Child’s Growing Mind: Brain Development and Learning from Birth to Adolescence, by Jane M. Healy, Ages and Stages, by Lesia Oesterreich, M.S.,extension human development specialist, Human Development and Family Studies, Iowa State University and “Learning from mistakes only happens after age 12, study suggests,” from Science Daily, Sept. 27, 2008.