3 Rules I Needed to Know About the Internet as a Dad, According to my Children

3 Rules I Needed to Know About the Internet as a Dad, According to my Children

By Brent Olson, Vice President of Public Policy, AT&T
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Monday, June 20, 2016 - 12:45pm



Being a father of two girls, ages 18 and 16, is one of the greatest joys of my life. Because of them, over the years, I have perfected bedtime stories, how to play imaginary characters, bad dad jokes and my ability to embarrass each of them in just seconds. Just like we always resist driving directions, I know many dads like myself claim that we don’t need help navigating the internet, but truth be told much of it is still mystery, especially when it comes to simply knowing this month’s favorite social media app, let alone how to actually use it.

According to Pew Research, I’m not the only dad out there that struggles with the internet, especially social media. While 66 percent of dads are on Facebook, we don’t even break above 30 percent on Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. While I’m not on all of these platforms, I try my best to know what is going on by having open and honest conversations with my daughters. They may teach me how to post a photo collage on Instagram and in return I try to provide them with some basic wisdom around appropriate online behavior. While often I may not have the answers, they know that they can come to me if they ever want to discuss something.

Being yesterday was Father's Day, I thought I would help spread some wisdom to all the 21st Century dads out there. Below, are the top 3 rules I have learned from my daughters’ social media 101 lessons that have helped me better understand the ever-changing internet.


On Facebook, Twitter and Instagram you can use the pound symbol, #, to tag certain topics. This is called a hashtag and people use these to join a larger conversation online. For example, if I had a joke to share I could use #DadJokes in order for my post to join all the other funny dad jokes shared online. I’m sure my girls will share my #DadJokes far and wide.


One of the most popular things parents do online is share photos of their kids on social media, especially on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Teenage protocol “allows” you to upload more than one photo at a time to Facebook, and not to caption every photo since all of your uploaded photos automatically go into albums. Since they’ve saved me from violating these protocols and embarrassing myself, I’ve in turn emphasized with them the importance of privacy settings in any social media app because once you hit send you should always assume it’s out there forever. Making sure your privacy settings default to “only friends,” not “public,” is a good rule to follow with photos.


From my 16-year old, I’ve learned that Facebook may be relatively passé and that instead Snapchat “rules the day.” On this app users share photos with friends that disappear after 10 seconds or less. Be careful, though, people viewing your photos can still save them by using the “screen shot” function on their cellphone, so again it’s still always best to assume it’s out there forever. Snapchat is one of the fastest growing apps currently in the market and many kids consider Snapchat as their major location to receive the news. The selected news organizations on this app formulate their news stories to last only seconds, and are image/video heavy rather than just words like a newspaper.

Bonus tip: A photo sent through Snapchat is called a “Snap.” Not a tweet or a snap-tweet, just snap. If you hear your child say “Jane sent me a snap!” you’ll know what she’s talking about and avoid getting the inevitable #dadisclueless eye roll.

Although the gifts we get for Father’s Day may not change much over time (who knew you could even buy a 12-in-1 flashlight/screwdriver/keychain?), technology is changing parenting every day. Whether it’s learning new apps or just adapting the same advice to new scenarios, there is always more for us to learn.

Happy belated Father’s Day to all the current and future dads out there! #DadJokes #Dontbeafraidtoaskfordirections

If you want more information on navigating the web with your child, check out our Digital You parenting materials.