Should I befriend my children and their pals online? – Telegraph.co.uk

“Kids are on so many social networks, and act differently on each one. On Facebook, where they’re probably friends with mum and dad, or know their future employer may see their posts, they take a lot more caution in what they publish and don’t necessarily show their true self. On something like Snapchat, where it’s more private if they want it to be and the message won’t be as permanent, they can be more risky and sociable.”

Even when parents can see what their children are saying online, whether they understand it is another matter. “Children have their own digital language that mixes text with emoji and images,” says Richard. “Parents typically have no idea what they are reading and cannot ‘translate’ that youth-culture speak.

“Also, kids go ‘underground’ the moment they think parents are snooping. For example, P911 means ‘parent alert’, CD9 means ‘parents are around’, 420 means weed, 182 means ‘I hate you’, 143 is ‘I love you’, and so on.

“Conversations happen across multiple platforms. You might see the start of one on one platform, and it will often continue on another. Unless you can contextualise and link all threads, you are likely going to miss the point or misinterpret it.

“You have no way of identifying who the sender is. You might see their 
 profile name but that doesn’t mean they are who they say they are. 
 Children know how to hide apps on their device too – how do you know you are seeing everything?”

He warns that children are often far more clued-up than parents, and quite capable of running two accounts: one that is acceptable to parents, and another for a select few friends.

Louise suggests the answer lies 
offline as much as online. “Get to know your children. Talk to them so you can pick up if they are happy or not. Make sure there is plenty of communal time – just being around the house. The more you do together, the more open they will be with you.”     

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