Parenting coach gives tips on social media and teens

Dec 4, 2013

Child development specialist and parenting coach Joani Geltman scared the living daylights out of parents at Old Rochester Regional Junior High on Tuesday night with her discussion on texting, sexting and social networking.

But she also offered helpful tips on how to deal with the ever changing world of social media.

"You're the first generation of parents that are dealing with a topic that you didn't deal with when you were teenagers," said Geltman. "We've been caught off guard with technology."

Now in a state of "crisis mode" parents have a lot of catching up to do, she said.

First things first, Geltman explained that kids are in a developmental state where everything is "awesome" and impulsiveness is normal. That often leads to actions without any thought as to consequences. In the world of social media, rash behavior such as texting a sexual photo, or sexting, can lead to extreme public embarrassment if that picture is shared.

Since many kids will be pressured to do such impulsive behaviors, parents have to be proactive.

"No one is giving them alternative behavior beforehand," said Geltman. "Just saying don't do something is not a strategy. [Parents] need to provide them with alternative behavior."

Geltman said kids are often worried their parents will make a bad situation worse, and need game plans on what do to when they are faced with these issues.

"It's important to tell kids, 'come to me first when you're in a situation that you can't handle,'" said Geltman.

That includes making kids aware that forwarding naked photos and videoing someone without permission are illegal. Geltman encouraged parents to share the story of a 13-year-old Massachusetts student who disseminated a nude photo of a girl in his school. The boy was convicted as a sex offender and face the label on his record for 18 years.

"Your kids don't know that," said Geltman.

She also told parents that they need to control the apps that are downloaded on smartphones, which can be done with a master password. Parents also have to stay on top of the current apps.

"Every month Google what new apps kids are using. Be a step ahead," Geltman said.

She warned against the apps Snap Photo and Snap Video, used largely for sexting as well as Chatroulette and Omegle, live video chats with sexual content.

Geltman challenged parents to limit their kids to either Instagram or Twitter and to follow all of their children's social media.

"This is a new level of parenting that no group of parents have had to deal with," she said. "It's work you absolutely must do."

Learn more on Joani Geltman at She also has a blog with daily parenting tips at