Aug. 15, 2012 at 8:41 AM ET
My 13-year-old daughter – a newly minted Instagramaniac – recently shared a picture of the old-fashioned bottle of Sprite she was drinking and 16 people “liked” it; a picture of her blue and white painted nails and a beach sunset snap fetched more than 20 likes.
So far, I’m not too concerned about what she’s sharing online.
Now, if she was bragging about our trip on a private jet (which we don’t have) while feasting on a lavish spread of food on the way to Fiji (where we’ve never been), I might get worried.
That may have been what tweaked computer mogul -- and dad of four -- Michael Dell. His daughter Alexa Dell posted a photo of her brother Zachary on said private jet, eating said feast, on the way to said exotic locale. The picture showed up on “Rich Kids of Instagram,” a Tumblr that chronicles the conspicuous consumption by children of the super-wealthy. (Think waterslides off yachts, $100,000 bar tabs, kids on helicopters and hashtags like #mansion, #dom, #ferrari and #hamptons.) Soon afterward, Alexa's Twitter account was shut down.
Alexa tweeted out the picture and Rich Kids posted it. (It has since been removed, but the New York Daily News managed to grab it before it was taken down.) Dad’s likely issue: Michael Dell spends a reported $2.7 million per year on private security for his family. As a Business Week story surmised:
And so you can imagine how pleased he must have been to see his children’s jaunt to Fiji detailed on a catchy website and his daughter providing an online diary of her life, replete with GPS locations dished out by her cell phone.
The rest of us may not be shedding a tear for Alexa's Twitter account. As CNBC "wealth editor" Robert Frank observes, "The problem here is just how clueless many of these rich kids have become; millions of Americans are unemployed, our government is in crisis, and yet these kids feel it's OK to show their wealth and their hundred pairs of designer shoes."
While most of us don’t have to worry about security detail for our families, not to mention our kids tweeting about $10,000 mall receipts and the like, we still need to set limits about what children share online.
Jeff Bullas, a social media expert and blogger, wrote the insightful post 30 Things You Should Not Share on Social Media, and while it’s geared to professionals who are protecting their reputations and personal brands, there’s plenty that parents of teens can take from it.
Such as number three on the "no" list: Party photos showing you inebriated or a hand placed where it shouldn’t be. Or numbers 12 (Drama with your friends) and 13 (Issues with your parents). Or 27: Your bodily functions. And, of course, 30: If you are not comfortable about it, don’t share it.
For some parents, figuring out the safe parameters of social media is a continuous game of catch up. Their kids join Facebook, so they create a page, too. Then their kids start tweeting, so they follow suit. (I joined Instagram because I wanted to see what my daughter’s latest obsession was.)
For Teresa Meggs, a mom of three in Bellevue, Wash., creating social media guidelines for her kids was a combination of common sense and guilt. With two kids who are college athletes, and the youngest a high school senior who is college-bound, there’s always been a lot on the line: Their futures.
“We tell them, ‘Think before you post’,” says Meggs. “Any picture that you ever post on there, even if you are not drinking but a beer can is in the background, that could be the end of your playing careers."
“We put it back on them. If you are going to do that, you’re going to ruin it for yourself,” she said.
Her daughter Kelly got a lesson early on, back when she was on MySpace. A coach of hers posted an inappropriate picture, which led to him losing his job.
She learned that “anything that you ever post on there can be used against you,” said Meggs, who now follows her kids on Facebook and Twitter.
Added Meggs: Ultimately, you have to let your kids know, “Hey, I’m watching it. You can’t hide anything.”
With three children ages 11, 13, and 15, all of whom are on Facebook, Lynn Laws says she has had the “very basic talk” on sharing guidelines. She and her husband are “friends” with their kids on Facebook and have their passwords, so they can check their accounts.
“I do know parents who are stricter and have set out specific rules,” Lays said. “Ours have been more like use your common sense. Don’t put out revealing pictures. Don’t make yourself look stupid. Be aware that it never really goes away, even if you delete stuff.”
While Laws had yet to see the Rich Kids of Instagram, she says she sees the teenage “look at me” trend on her kids’ Facebook pages.
“I do feel like the realm of Facebook for teenagers is ‘Look at me in Hawaii.. Look at me with these cute boys at this party,’” she said. “So much of it really is proving how cool you are.”
What guidelines do you have when it comes your kids sharing information on social media? Tell us on our Facebook page.
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