The prevalence of social media has a huge impact on society; especially on developing children. As a role model and guardian to our children, it is as important as ever for parents to ensure their safety and privacy online. We are surrounded by a digital culture that encourages transparency online; but with that transparency comes experiences with both positive and negative consequences. The influences of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and online gaming are part of everyday culture. However, for children, more so than adults, this influence will transpire beyond our interactions online and affect personal relationships. The ambiguity, falsification, and exhibitionism so prevalent on social media will have a direct impact on our children’s identity, development, and value system.
There are many opportunities to be an excellent role model to our children when it comes to social media dependency, and promoting a safe and healthy relationship with social media.
Communicating with your children about social media use is very important to their development and positive mental condition. Here are some tips to help guide this positive relationship with social media, together.
Keeping Teens/Children Safe While Using Social Media
- Be active in showing an interest with their online life and activities.
- Keep an eye on them and be in physical proximity to see what they are doing.
- Discuss what is appropriate to post online. As a general rule, your child shouldn’t post anything they wouldn’t want a parent or teacher to see or read. Swearing, name calling, aggressive verbal rants and posting inappropriate pictures or “selfies” is not appropriate.
- There is very little, if not any control of what others may post about them. Explain to them that photos and texts can re-appear years later.
- Explain that autocorrect can sometimes lead to miscommunication and hurt feelings.
- Get an online family protection plan that will block, and filter certain websites.
- Follow your child’s online accounts. Be aware that some children or teens may create a fake second account for their parents to follow.
- Learn about what platforms, programs and apps your child is using. Understand that they can also work around age restricted sites.
- Ask them about their friends and the people who they meet online. Having an interest in their online life will open the door to speaking to them about what kinds of people there may be. Make them aware of people pretending to be who they are not.
- Be clear about “meeting” people in the online world and the offline world. Online friendships are important to keep online. If your child wants to meet someone they met online, in person, they need to do so in a public place, with an adult present.
- Some teens may try to find dates or sexual partners on dating sites. Talk to them about finding healthy and safe relationships.
- Set an example by modeling good behavior on your own accounts.
- Set screen time limits (https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/screen-time-at-home-healthy-habits).
- Teach your child about being “unplugged” from their technology and social media. Although it is entertainment and can be exciting, no message is that important that it can’t wait until morning.
- Be aware and check your child’s own privacy settings on their accounts, to be sure they are not sharing more information than you want.
- Be sure the GPS data is turned off, so they are not sharing location information via GEO tags.
- Use an online nickname where possible.
- Make sure account passwords are protected and updated regularly.
- Remind them to not share passwords, even with friends.
- Be sure they do not accept friend requests from people they do not know in real life.
- Explain snapchat posts are not temporary as people can screen grab the message before it disappears.
- Instill proper etiquette with their friends’ privacy too. Be sure they are asking permission before posting something such as a photo or video. Teach them to be aware of what is being posted about them.
Online communication has provided a veil of ambiguity that has kickstarted a new age of bullies. Technology has now given the ability to broadcast to a larger audience and a much more public space via online social networks. There are opportunities for greater witnesses, greater humiliation and more instigators. The influence and damage cyberbullying can inflict on a person can be much larger than “traditional” bullying. There are several ways young people can bully online. Often it is verbal or emotional abuse targeting one’s appearance, race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
Some common ways to approach dealing with cyber bullying are:
- Engage with your child/teen in an ongoing dialogue. Be pro-active and don’t wait for things to go wrong. Remind them they can always go to you if they feel threatened or uncomfortable.
- Set rules and boundaries. Maintain a strong value system and what you expect of your child/teen. Having household rules against cyberbullying have been shown to reduce engagement of it.
- Educate and inform. Youth need to understand that it is not “just a joke”.
We hope this article helped shine some light on various aspects of social media usage amongst children and teens. Although it can be a wonderful way to connect with friends and family, and capture life moments, it does need to be done in a safe manner.