Hundreds of thousands of young people are heading off to college this time of year. Unlike previous generations, today’s students will not have to completely bid farewell to their parents — they can remain in constant contact with mom and dad through text messaging, email, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Google+, Skype, and a variety of other social platforms.
College is a time to explore, build relationships, discover new things and ultimately grow as a person. Through technology, today’s parents have the unique opportunity to remain connected to their offspring and experience some of the special day-to-day moments in their kids’ collegiate lives. Taken a step too far though, this sustained connection can annoy a student or even cripple his or her ability to develop into an independent, fully-functioning adult.
The number of parents connecting with their college-aged kids via social media has increased so rapidly in recent years that sites like Oh Crap! My Parents Joined Facebook emerged, along with parody videos like The Onion’s “Facebook, Twitter revolutionizing the ways that parents stalk their college-aged kids.”
Here are some guidelines for effectively using technology to communicate with your college student without being overbearing.
1. Let Your Student Set Some Ground Rules
Staying in touch with your son or daughter via social media can be a great way to offer support at a distance, as well as pick up on any danger signs (such as depression or drug abuse). But your ability to have this connection is ultimately dependent on your student’s level of comfort inviting you into his or her social world.
One college student might happily accept his mom as a Facebook friend and even encourage her to connect with his friends, while another would be mortified to know his mom is scoping out tagged photos from last weekend’s fraternity party. Every parent/child dynamic is different. That’s why it’s important to talk with your student and let her set some ground rules for your social media connection. Together, determine which platforms you should use to stay in touch. Find out whether she’s comfortable with you commenting on photos and wall posts. Familiarize yourselves with privacy settings, which offer significant control to students who wish to selectively share content with parents.