Seeing Victoria Beckham dance with her son on TikTok got me hooked on the app with my own teenager
When Romeo joined the free social media app, which allows users to watch, create and share short videos, he wanted to stand out from the rest of TikTok's more than 1 billion users. He figured dancing with his famous mom would do it. The clip of the pair recreating the choreography from the 1997 song "Spice up your life" in their kitchen in November went viral and got more than 200,000 likes.
Watching Beckham and her son reminded me of my family's karaoke nights in our basement, which we did regularly until my two oldest children went off to college. It's been a while since we enjoyed that type of fun and I miss it.
Courteney Cox, Kourtney Kardashian and other celeb parents use TikTok to connect with their children
As I read more about TikTok, I learned that Beckham's hardly the only celebrity parent using the popular app to bond with her children. Courteney Cox, Kourtney Kardashian, Britney Spears, and Mark Cuban also all use TikTok with their kids.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that these parents are onto something. If I truly wanted to see what my kids are up to, and be able to take part, I needed to download these apps and figure out how to get my kids to invite me to use them together, even if I never won an MTV Music Award back in the day.
On average, teens spend seven hours a day online - not including time spent on homework, according to a Common Sense media study report released last year. While many parents are curious about what their children are actually up to when their faces are buried in their phones, they're often reluctant to ask.
"Parents tell me they are so worried about their kids and the influence of social media," said Diana Graber, a digital literacy expert, "but they do nothing to dispel their fears."
Many teenagers actually want their parents to get more involved in their online worlds
Interestingly, many kids feel their parents don't care enough about their online lives, which is a missed opportunity, Graber said.
To get started, parents should ask their kids about their favourite social media apps, which can foster an opportunity for children to open up and ask mom and dad to join in. Maybe a teen will share a funny video or a news story they find compelling. My son and I, for example, love to watch videos on YouTube of The Baby Bachelorette together. My son also often shares his favourite sports clips from his Twitter feed with me.
These moments remind me of my own childhood when I played board games and watched television shows with my parents. It was a chance to laugh and spend time together. Sometimes a show's plot became a catalyst for more serious conversations.
Social media can serve that very same purpose.
"We hear so much about the dangers and problems online, but social media isn't all bad," Graber told Insider. "It's supposed to be social. Watching these videos of Victoria Beckham dancing and laughing with her son reminds us of the positives."
When my 16-year-old son first showed me a few of his favourite TikTok videos and memes, I honestly didn't get it. But I wanted to.
So, I owned up to my Gen X ignorance, and asked: "Why do you like this one? Let's talk about it."
When I ask my teen about his social media interests, I'll get a livelier response than when I ask questions about school
His explanations gave me insight. By sharing his online experiences with me, he offered me the gift of getting to know him better. At 16, his answers to questions like, "How was school today?" tend to elicit a grunt or one-word answer. But when I inquire about what he's watching, I usually get a much more animated response.
Gaining entry into a teenager's virtual world also gives parents a chance to teach valuable life lessons.
This was the case when my son showed me a meme on Instagram that used offensive language. I was then able to start a mature discussion about it, and after we talked, he chose to "unlike" the post - not because I told him to, but because he decided to.
"Parents can get involved in their child's online life in ways that align with their family' core values," said Jordan Shapiro, author of the book, "The New Childhood; Raising Kids in a Connected World." "Parents can help model appropriate online behaviour and help them in their decision making."
Once your children share which apps they're using, simply ask if it's OK for you to join, too. Then, each step along the way, make sure to respect your child's privacy.
"I always ask my kids before I like a post or comment," Graber said. "Kids can be super sensitive and adolescence can magnify insecurities."
In our family, we use Snapchat and Instagram, which help us stay connected, especially since my two oldest children live in another state. Sometimes these apps will suggest I "connect" with friends of my children, but I choose not to because it feels like I would be crossing a boundary. If my son wants to share a post from a friend with me, that should be his choice.
Laughing and being goofy with each other has helped our family bond, but these exchanges are meant solely for the five of us, and we're mindful not to screenshot or forward content to anyone outside of our family, which might embarrass one of us.
The ultimate goal is to use social media as a way to get closer to your child - not to invade their personal space. While most parents don't have the Insta-clout of Mark Cuban or the dance moves of Victoria Beckham, we can still use social media as a tool to connect, teach, and have some fun with our kids.
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