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By Sue Sheff

We frequently hear and discuss the behavior of youth on social media, but we rarely discuss how adults behave online. And while you’ve probably heard how kids engage in sexting and other risky behaviors online, did you know that according to one recent study, one in five parents admit to sharing intimate photos and/or messages online or via text?

And before you go thinking that cyberbullying is only an issue among young people, Pew Research says that 73 percent of adults have witnessed online harassment, with 40 percent of all adults admitting to experiencing online abuse by other adults. This is extremely high considering these are adults who should know better.

Another issue that’s not confined to teens is “oversharing.” Parents constantly remind their children, especially their teens, to limit what they share online for fear that college admissions officers or potential employers are watching. But are parents heeding their own advice?

According to a Career Builders survey published last June, the answer is no. Employers eliminated 51% of potential applicants due to their social media behavior, proving that your behavior online can affect your future at any age.

More is caught than taught
Offline parenting helps kids make better online choices. This is absolutely true, however your online activity also affects your child’s digital behavior. If children watch parents overshare photos and intimate or sensitive information about family issues, the child will assume this is appropriate online behavior.

Never underestimate your child’s ability to monitor you as you are supposed to be monitoring them.

It is not any different than the parent who texts and drives (or checks their social media accounts) with the excuse that they are a more experienced driver. The fact is in a teenager’s mind, they are invincible. They are unable to comprehend that maturity of experience means anything – and in reality when it comes to texting and driving, experience doesn’t mean anything. Texting and driving kills. Don’t do it, under any condition, even at a stoplight or red light – and don’t give your teens an excuse to do it. It is one of the worse social media habits you can model for your teenager. Teach by example that a cellphone goes in the glove box, a purse or a backpack until your destination.

As a parent you’re a role model not only for their offline behavior but now you are also one for their online behavior. And while your child might be more digitally savvy than you, it’s not an excuse to be sloppy with your social media etiquette.

Kindness and respect is expected in all areas of life – this starts at home and needs to be carried through to your kids’ virtual lives. Be their role model at all times. Never underestimate the power of your influence, and remember they are watching, reading and absorbing all you are doing. Keep in mind that your kids could become the example you set for them. Make it count – literally and digitally.

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