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Social spats

Parents and kids need online boundaries Add to ...

At the ripe old age of 15, rapper Lil' Bow Wow decided it was time to graduate to a more sophisticated stage name: "Bow Wow."Almost eight years have passed, but in his mother's eyes, he's still Lil' - and now the whole Twitterverse knows it.

Bow Wow, 22, got into a Twitter fight with his mother, Teresa Caldwell, a little more than a week ago, exchanging heated, under-140 character messages.

The spat was triggered by her complaint that he wasn't spending enough time with her and escalated when she publicly ordered him to remove the rims he'd put on the family's Bentley.

A sample from her flurry of tweets:



I can tell Bow has been here. He never parks the cars in the garage. That drives me crazy. I pulled up and there's 3 cars outside. Ghetto!


Bow Wow, needless to say, was mortified

Members of Gen-Y have passed over face-to-face chats and phone conversations in favour of instant, digital communication, leaving their parents trying to reach out over social networks. But many parents are oblivious to public nature of Facebook and Twitter - and their clumsy attempts at using them have only pushed their children further away.

In Bow Wow's case, Ms. Caldwell also sent chummy @replies to a laundry list of her son's celebrity friends, including Nelly, Kim Kardashian and P. Diddy. Those messages, in turn, were read by thousands of others.

This was the last straw for the rapper, who sent his mother a stern, 93-character order:

@MsTCaldwell delete your account. or I'm deleting mine and my fans are going to be mad at you

"You're saying things other people have access to," says Karyn Gordon, a Toronto youth consultant and Gen Y expert. "Treat itas if other people are in the room. Don't say anything that you wouldn't want 100 other people to know about."

Judy Arnall, a Calgary-based parenting expert and author of Discipline Without Distress, says parents need to respect the boundaries their kids set up on social networks; many consider them their turf. And when their kids become adults, parents have to back off, she adds.

Tina Jackson, 25, lives in Chicago while her parents are in Cleveland. She usually logs on to Facebook when she has down time at her job in corporate communications - something that wasn't lost on her father, Bruce. In November, when Mr. Jackson, 58, noticed a flurry of activity on his daughter's Facebook feed, he expressed his disapprovalon her wall:

Slow day at work, eh? Just read a quote from a management expert yesterday in the paper who said, 'anybody using socialmedia at work should be fired immediately.' So be careful, even if others around you are doing it, it doesn't mean the bosses agree.

Ms. Jackson was used to getting such unsolicited advice in person, but not on Facebook.

"When it was public like that, it felt like a lecture. I wonder what people who don't know me that well or what my work friends would think if they saw it, which is why I deleted it quite quickly," she says.

Ms. Arnall says that because boomers have fewer children than previous generations, it's more difficult for them to give up the parental role, even after the kids have moved out.

Some have figured out how to co-exist with their kids on social networks.

Brian Joseph, a 44-year-old teacher in the Chicago, Ill. area, has a good relationship with his 16-year-old daughter online and off. They protect their tweets from being viewed by people they're not following - which means Mr. Joseph's @replies to his daughter can't be seen by her friends.

"If you're using it primarily as a communication tool in a family, you don't really need to have what you're saying be viewable publicly," he explains.

But even if his tweets were out there for the masses, it's unlikely they'd embarrass his daughter.

"I don't use it for serious dialogue," he says. "It's more like, 'I'm running a little late this afternoon' or 'Ifound this great site, here's a link.' It's really more a status update."

Mr. Joseph and his wife also have Facebook accounts, but they haven't added their daughter as a friend.

"We felt comfortable she had that realm to herself, provided we could be connected in other ways," he says.

In general, Ms. Arnall advises against trying to get a child's attention on a social network. But if a parent has exhausted all other options, she gives the green light to send them a direct - private - message on Twitter or Facebook.

Bow Wow seems ready to move on from the Twitter tiff with his mother; he has deleted all tweets he'd posted during the showdown. But by Ms. Arnall's measure, Bow Wow's mom missed the point. A day after the fight, Ms. Caldwell tweeted: Mom's if you have a son & your a single mother get ready. They are so protective. OMG! My son & I have a strong & loving relationship.

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Follow on Twitter: @DakGlobe

 

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