This post was sponsored by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility in conjunction with my role as a #TalkEarly ambassador.
“Night mommy. I just want one more kiss,” my 10 year old daughter says, wandering into my office to give me a third kiss for the night. Enveloping me in a warm hug, she nestles her head into my shoulder even though I know her eyes are on my computer screen, scanning the multiple open windows for faces of people she knows in my Facebook feed. As she shuffles off to bed, I turn back to my screen, hoping that what my tween saw is consistent with the messages I’m trying to convey through my parenting. On this particular night she didn’t ask me any questions but sometimes I worry about what she’s seeing over my shoulder before going to bed.
My Facebook messages, Instagram photos, YouTube videos, Pinterest boards, and blog posts are viewed by followers, readers, and also my two children as they look over my shoulder. Modeling proper use of technology doesn’t just include being a good digital citizen and unplugging. It also includes ensuring that the way we act online is consistent with our offline interactions and we’re sharing content that mirrors the type of messages we’re trying to convey as parents.
“Girls learn through what is modeled and shared by their parents,” says Haley Kilpatrick, Founder & Executive Director of the nonprofit organization, Girl Talk, and author of The Drama Years: Real Girls Talk About Surviving Middle School– Bullies, Brands, Body Image, and More. While speaking at this year’s #TalkEarly Summit, she shared insights on raising confident and healthy girls based on her interactions with thousands of middle and high schoolers. Haley urged us to pause, taking a minute to ask ourselves if “Is what you’re saying true, helpful, important, necessary, and kind?”
Since girls develop behaviors by observing parents’ actions and by listening to what they have to say, Haley encourages families to T.H.I.N.K before you speak, text, or type. T.H.I.N.K is a Girl Talk National Campaign that encourages parents to ensure that their actions are true, helpful, important, necessary, and kind. I worry about the message our kids pick up from those Some eCards that come through my feed as my daughter is peering over my shoulder.
“What you may intend to say as funny, especially about drinking, might not be interpreted that way by your kids,” Haley shared at the recent Mom 2.0 Summit in Atlanta. She encouraged attendees to be mindful of their actions because what we may intend to say as funny, especially about drinking, might not be interpreted that way by our kids, especially by my snooping tween.
“My mom is confuses me a lot. She is one person to me, and a very different person in front of her friends (she says mean things about people). I don’t think she knows it, but I read her texts and look at her Facebook profile from my aunt’s phone and it confuses me and makes me sad.” –Savannah, 10
As parents, we’re role models for our kids 24/7 whether we like it or not. After 2,000+ hours of interviews with middle and high school girls, Haley revealed that girls look to parents “who keep it real.” One Girl Talk participant wanted her mother to “Be my role model at home, at work, online, on the phone, when you’re out with your friends, and when you are with me.”
As a role model, I know I need to have a conversation with my daughter about what she thinks of what she sees in my Facebook feed. It’s one of the many topics that we need to address as part of my commitment to #TalkEarly. Maybe she doesn’t even notice the images like the Some eCards but it’s the perfect way to take a teachable moment and turn it into a meaningful conversation. After all, I want to walk the walk AND talk the talk to make sure that I’m consistent in my parenting and admired for keeping it real.
For more information about Haley Kilpatrick, visit Girl Talk. For helpful information on talking to your kids about underage drinking, visit TalkEarly.org or read any of the posts I’ve written as a #TalkEarly Ambassador about my personal experience of talking to our children about alcohol and underage drinking. Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.