As a millennial, technological growth increased rapidly during my childhood. I found myself actively using Facebook at 12 years old (despite the required age of 13 to join).
The trick was (reflecting my then-tween thought process):
- Mark Zuckerburg did not know me nor did he know my age
- My parents were not informed
- In the hypothetical situation of which they were informed, they wouldn’t know how to navigate through the site anyways – we all know Generation X parents are a little less tech savvy
All entry gates were open.
With each year, more apps – Twitter, Skype, Line, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram – that encouraged connectivity became available. Learning to effectively use these platforms in ways that did not overexpose information (which your children will regret doing) involved much trial and error.
Before I tip you with information on how to help your child dodge such mistakes, I will tell you WHY kids use social media and why you SHOULD let them stay connected.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) conducted a comprehensive study on the “Impact Social Media has on Kids” and found increases in communication skills, increased access to facts, news, and other type of information as well as help in developing a sense of self. Broken down, these findings draw out the same reason you as parents use such platforms.
However, if overused or used incorrectly, these platforms may increase cyberbullying or induce depressive symptoms, known as “Facebook depression”, due to “unfriending” and online bullying. They may also be exposing minors to inappropriate content and sexting.
6 Tips for Keeping Kids Safe on Social Media:
1. Make sure your child is of age
Simple enough, the first step to monitoring your child is to make sure they do not access platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram until they are at least 13 years old. If you find a new application, check the accessibility age and make sure they meet it.
2. Learn, and be the example
Learn the sites they use. Know how to use each site. Use them yourself, and be their example of how to use each one. Help your child set their privacy settings and update the settings every few months. Explain why such measures should be taken with examples of why you and others around engage in such measures.
3. KNOW your child
We all know our children, but do we really KNOW them? I ask you to involve yourself in your child’s life enough to know their friends, their interests, their friends’ interests, what conversations with their friends entail, what their definition of “chilling with friends” may be and so forth. What children surf through on the WEB as well as post on social media reflect the person they are, the person they are becoming, as well as the person they aspire to be.
Number 4 right here is KEY. It is all about communication – talk, talk, talk. If your child is active on social media, they sure have time to communicate with you. Discuss the online dangers. Chat about why they should not give advertisers any information. Discuss overexposure and the consequences. Discuss how a post on the internet can never fully be retracted. Discuss how what they post now will impact their future. Teenagers may be short-sighted, but they can be convinced with facts – show and tell them the facts — this will alter their social media behaviour for years to come.
5. Befriend them
Befriend them on all platforms. This is your way of monitoring without dictating because we already know dictating results in retaliation. If you find a post you do not like, ask your child to remove the post – once again, explaining why.
Side tip: DO NOT invade their privacy using any applications that allow you to access your children’s personal content such as private chats if you want to encourage honesty, trust, and openness.
6. Keep computer/laptop use in central locations with limited amounts of time
Similar to a curfew or hours of TV allowed per day, limit kids’ social media hours. As said above, too many hours will wean the benefits. Encouraging usage in central locations will reduce temptations to enter taboo sites. You will also be able to further monitor the websites and social media sites your child browses through.
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