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Parents Offered Tips on Bridging Social-Media Rift with Kids

Online access can make children seem separated from adults and the world around them. (Pixabay/Sasint)
Online access can make children seem separated from adults and the world around them. (Pixabay/Sasint)
May 3, 2018

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Tips for parents trying to bridge the modern media gap with their children - that will be one topic of Thursday night's keynote address at the spring conference of the National Association of Social Workers, West Virginia.

Licensed social worker and consultant Marcus Stallworth said it's worth remembering young people's minds are still developing, and they're under a lot of outside influence. But he said parents and caregivers still should have the last word on what children decide.

"How they choose to dress and decision making, or how to approach the opposite sex - Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram - those things didn't exist when we were growing up,” Stallworth said. “And the kids will say, 'These are mine, these are private.' Remember that you are the parent."

Stallworth stressed that parents can and should get involved in their children's online worlds. The annual Charleston spring NASW conference is the largest event of its kind in the country.

Stallworth said of the children who have been approached inappropriately, only about a quarter told a responsible adult. He said he doesn't want to add another demand on overwhelmed parents, and parents may meet pushback or feel intimidated if they try to enter their children's online lives. But, Stallworth said, doing so works a lot better than we might think.

"You could learn a lot about your child by sitting down, playing a video game with them - how they respond to successes, how do they handle stress," he said. "Kids, if you ask them the right questions and if they feel you're sincere, they'll answer questions. You just have to ask them."

On the topic of online disinformation, Stallworth said he has lobbied for school systems to include media literacy in their curriculum. He said part of the appeal of some untrue stories on social media comes from the fact that the controversy itself draws looks, and likes.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV