Technology is a wonderful tool that can keep us connected to family and friends from far away or allow us to gain useful knowledge about topics that interest us or even help solve some of the world’s largest problems. But technology also comes with dangers, from hackers, to predators, to online bullying. Teaching our children how to act responsibly online and recognize red flags of danger are just another piece of the complex puzzle of raising children in our technology-driven world today.
If your kids are not on social media yet, chances are they already know all the names of the platforms from Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, YouTube and so on, as the list grows continuously. Before your child gets on social media, there are some things that you may want to consider. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released findings from a comprehensive study on the impact that social media has on kids and families. They found that, although there are real benefits to kids using sites like Facebook and other social media platforms, including increased communication, access to information and help in developing a sense of self, there can be serious downsides to all this online sharing too. Let’s take a closer look at some steps parents can take to help raise social media savvy kids.
Family Rules – Deciding to let your child(ren) have social media is a family decision and, as such, it should come with some boundaries or rules to be closely followed. As parents, it is important to set rules about:
- Time – how much time is too much time to be surfing the web or spending on social media accounts? Parental restrictions can be set on smartphones, laptops, and even on blocking individual sites through your computer settings or even through your home’s router.
- Postings – Discuss with your child what is allowable to post and not to post. Frame this in the questions: “Is what you are about to post kind, useful, needed, and positive? Would you say what you posted to someone in person?” In addition to words, talk about images that are acceptable for posting.
- Personal Information – Remind your children not to post anything personal such as a phone number, social security number, email address, home address, or age. All of this information can be used in malicious ways online.
Privacy Settings – If your child is on social media, consider keeping privacy settings at the strictest settings. This means that for most platforms from Twitter to Instagram to Facebook that only those who have been allowed will see what your child posts. Review these settings often as they change with each upgrade.
Location Settings and Geotagging – Many social media apps have something that is called geotagging, meaning it can track your child’s location. While it may seem neat to tag where you are while out-and-about, it is also a danger to show the world where your child is at any given point throughout the day. Turn off this function through the security settings.
Be Open about Social Media and Online Browsing – As parents, you like to know your child’s friends at school, so be sure you know the friends online as well. Keep the discussion going with your child about who they are connecting with and what is being posted. Remind them that once something goes into the wide world of the internet it is always out there even after it has been deleted. For example, SnapChat messages disappear after a few minutes or even seconds, but all it takes is one person to take a screenshot of the message and it can be shared forever. This goes for posting mean words and inappropriate pictures or memes. An online reputation can follow your child throughout their lives.
Be Vigilant – As parents it is important that we know what technology our children are hooked on. Get to know the apps that s/he is using. In fact, if your child is on a social media platform, consider getting on it yourself and monitoring by becoming a follower or friend of your child’s page. Help your child set up good habits by limiting the time and amount of online activity. Block all ads through settings, and disable in-app purchases. Set a good example for your children as you connect online as they are watching us for guidance.
Technology such as social media surrounds our children and has become such a part of the culture of their generation. Follow some simple family rules, security setting guidelines, and be vigilant of what your child is doing online. For more resources and help navigating social media here are a few helpful sites: