A guide to help Boomers engage online with children and grandchildren with a minimum of stress and a maximum of fun.
For many Baby Boomers, the world of social media can be fraught with pitfalls and self-doubt. Online etiquette can be both inscrutable and fluid, sand shifting under you as you try to get proficient with the myriad platforms and ever-changing landscape on the web.
As a social media professional – one of the oldest of my peers – I’ve probably made every online error and faux pas there is to make. I like to think that my missteps can serve a higher purpose. I’ve made mistakes so you don’t have to.
Following is my take on guidelines for interacting with your children and grandchildren online. There are probably more, and if you have any advice you’d like to add, let us know in the comment section below. We’re all in this together!
1. Honor thy children and grandchildren (on social media). For the most part, social media is their world and we are their guests. This is a great space for casual communication, sharing happy memories and photos. Save criticism and negativity for off-line conversations. A good rule of thumb: don’t share anything you wouldn’t want the world to see.
2. Thou shalt not friend your children and grandchildren. Wait to be invited into their world. Let them initiate social media connections.
3. Thou shalt not friend their friends. You can accept a friend invitation, but don’t initiate it. It’s even a better idea to ask your child or grandchild first before accepting any invitation to connect online.
4. Thou shalt not over-comment. An occasional brief observation on neutral posts is a good way to start. It’s OK to comment if you’re invited into the conversation, but be sure to read and re-read your comment before you hit ‘post.’ Keep in mind that tone is difficult to discern in writing. A flip or sarcastic comment can often be read as snarky or mean-spirited.
5. Thou shalt be respectful on #ThrowBackThursday. This social media phenomenon has taken hold – posting old pictures that capture happy times past. It’s a great way to share memories, but be sure your photos are appropriate. No nude baby pics of your daughter the attorney or your son the hedge fund manager.
6. Thou shalt learn to text. Related: Communicate in a way that works for them, even if it’s awkward for you at first. Learn how to text instead of calling. Many GenXers and Millennials no longer answer their phones, and often don’t even check their voice mailboxes.
7. Thou shalt create your own community. Social media is a great way to stay connected to old friends and meet new ones. Don’t rely on your children or grandchildren for all your social media interaction.
8. Thou shalt be prepared to be shocked. Your children’s norms are not our own. And don’t get me started on the grandchildren’s. Language you might find shocking can be normal communication for them. Try to roll with it while you remember how shocking your behavior was to your parents back in the day.
9. Though shalt ask for help. I like to say I gave birth to my own I.T. guy. But remember, if it’s anything more than a quick question, offering to pay grandchildren for social media tutoring is never wrong. If you have the opportunity to travel with your grandchild, a trip or vacation is a wonderful time to get tech advice. Your smart phone can do so much more than you ever imagined and your grandchild just might be the gateway to a whole new set of skills.
10. Thou shalt restart your computer. My son made me put this one in. It really does fix a huge percentage of the problems you might be having with your computer.
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Candace Karu reports on all there is to discover and love about food and farming as well as communicating Cabot’s mission to support community, volunteerism, and sustainability. Whether online, on air, or in person, her job is to amplify the passion and commitment of the 1200 farm families who own Cabot. When Candace is not representing Cabot, she lives, cooks, and works out in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.