Amy Barseghian is social media savvy. In her Mommy Mentor blog she reviews products with an eye for children’s safety and offers advice on getting your little ones to bed. She’s an avid Tweeter, so much so, she convinced her father to start his own account to stay updated on his growing grandchildren.
But there’s one social media challenge that Barseghian is grappling with: How will she guide her children when they start to develop their own online identity?
That’s just one reason why Barseghian stopped by the Social Media + Family gathering in Scottsdale on Thursday, Sept. 30. The event featured a group of parents focused on the daily challenges and opportunities of online family communication.
Hosted by the Social Media Club and sponsored by the Chevrolet Cruze, the conversation at Hotel Valley Ho was the fourth stop in the Social Media + Family nationwide tour. The fall series tackles the evolution of “The Social Family,” offering parents a forum to discuss the best ways to navigate, build relationships and guide their children on the Web.
Social Media + Family lineup included Atlanta, Minneapolis, St. Louis and Phoenix.
“It’s an aspect I never really thought about as a parent,” Barseghian said. “I never thought about my son being on Facebook by himself. This is a chance to learn from others.”
Inside a swanky hotel conference room and between bits of appetizers, local moms and dads shared tactics for helping their children stay productive and safe on the Web. They discussed the intricacies of families sharing information online and also chatted about how social media has deepened relationships with faraway relatives.
After an hour of casual conversation, a panel discussion led by Social Media Club’s founder, Chris Heuer, began. Local bloggers and online experts hoping to answer parents’ questions about the intersection of family and social media joined him.
Panelists included local residents Keagan Pearson, author of the Fatherhood Factor blog, CJ Feierabend, who offers parenting tips in her Mighty Mommy podcast, and Derek Neighbors, the voice behind the spunky site, Musings of a Mad Men.
Also on the panel was Lesley Hettinger, a spokeswoman for the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, a family-geared car that debuted in September.
From helping to set family social media guidelines to navigating the best tactics for writing about personal challenges, the group offered tips and shared the best methods for surviving and thriving as a unit in a new media world.
You can watch the video and there are a couple of key points we pulled out below:
“The most important thing is to be involved and educated about what tools your kids are using,” Neighbors said. “It’s a lot less scary if you understand what’s going on and if you are involved in what they are doing and know how they are behaving.”
Feierabend has adopted the same method. Her 6-year-old daughter is already developing online confidence, but she keeps her under a watchful eye.
“Be there,” Feierabend said. “Don’t just put them in front of the computer and let them go wild. Know where they are online and use it to your advantage and theirs.”
As Pearson’s children move toward online independence, he’s developed a family plan of open dialogue to combat challenges and safety issues. He regularly has conversations with his children about personal privacy and is helping them understand that by posting something online, the public can access it.
That open family forum also is the guiding backbone to what publishes in his blog. Although he strives to provide candid content, he carefully weighs sharing intimate family details.
“We somewhat have a sense of responsibility that we are honest and real people,” Pearson said. “We deal with the same kind of stuff that anybody does, so why would we not discuss it?
“My limit becomes when I pull other people into the conversation. Do I need to have a conversation with my wife because I’m talking about something that affects our marriage?”
Beyond the challenges of sharing information and staying safe online, panelist also discussed how social media has helped them create stronger family bonds.
Since moving from her hometown in Illinois for a job in Michigan, Lesley Hettinger has stayed connected with her family through social media. She even convinced her 70-year-old aunt to set up a Facebook account.
Hettinger said sharing her pictures and updates online helps her maintain relationships and stay closer to her family. But it took some work to get her relatives comfortable with chatting in the social sphere.
“As I began to educate my family, it became easier,” Hettinger said. “Educating the older generations of my family has mad them accept it more.”
Kathy Jacobs, a local online community wiz and active social media mom, stopped by the event on Thursday to listen in on a topic that’s close to her heart.
She’s passionate about bringing the conversation of social media and family mainstream, and believes the topic should be openly discussed both at home and in schools.
Jacobs urges parents to get involved and be aware of how their kids are contributing to the conversation online.
“I think parents are starting to understand it, but they are hitting it too late,” Jacobs said. “They wait until kids are in junior high or high school and they don’t understand their kids are already texting.”
Additional photos from Phoenix are on Flickr.