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9 Rules of Online Engagement With Your Teens

Photograph by Twenty20

So you’ve just friended your son or daughter on Facebook, followed them on Twitter and Instagram, and even added them on Snapchat... whatever that is. Yay, you! You and your kid are super close and being friends with them online will be totally easy, right?

Wrong. So wrong, it hurts. I'm actually in awe of how wrong you are right now.

Ask any seasoned parent of a teen who has made a social media faux pas (and apparently, there are many) and they will tell you that anything you post online in relation to your teenager is an act of mutiny.

If you absolutely want to hang online without encouraging your child to create secret profiles so you can’t find them, then follow these not-at-all simple, completely nonsensical rules of engagement.

RELATED: 5 Smartphone Apps to Monitor Your Teen

I guess I should also mention that no parent alive has ever actually followed any of these. So once you're done reading, go right ahead an embarrass the crap out of your kid! It's your god-given right as their parent.

1. The first week after following or friending them, do not comment or like anything they’ve posted. If you do, you’ll remind them that you’re there and watching, which may cause them to retreat into the recesses of unknown social apps that you don’t yet know exist.

2. When you do comment or like, be chill about it. Limit yourself to no more than three or four likes or comments per week. Any more, and they’ll probably block you from seeing their posts because you’re #annoying.

3. Never, and I mean ever, post a photo of your tween or teen on your account without them approving it first—unless you’re trying to sever any emotional bond you had with them.

4. Likewise, don’t tag your child in any photo or post, especially those lame page-long declarations of love and pride for your offspring. They already know you love them, stop giving them a big, sloppy kiss via social media.

5. The rule of thumb for what you say to your child online: don’t write anything that you can say to them in person. If you’re guilty of posting “make sure to clean your room before you leave today,” or “you forgot to pick up the dog poop after school,” then your child instantly regrets accepting your friend request and basically will hate you and block you for all eternity.

6. Stop sharing funny pictures of animals, YouTube clips of songs or movies (especially ones from your high school days), or prayer chain mail requests with your kid. They don’t care—I promise.

7. Don’t assume anything your child tells you in person, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is safe to post/comment/type/share online. Not even a mention about their history homework or favorite new restaurant is allowed unless your tween or teen expressly permits it.

8. Instead of having an online relationship with your child, use your connection to their social media accounts as an opportunity to watch and learn. Think of your kids like animals in the wild who will get spooked at the slightest retweet.

9. Honestly, just don’t say anything. Everything you comment on, like, tag or post will be wrong until your child turns 18, anyway.

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