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4 social media musts for parents

4 social media musts for parents

Screen time for kids is probably one of the most frequently talked about parenting topics right now. Is it good? Is it bad?

If you decide to let your child use technology, how much is considered too much?

And do they get to go on social media?

While it is up to you whether or not your tweens and teens can have social media accounts, we believe it is a battle not worth fighting. As you will see below, teens are incredibly active online and to deny your child the ability to join in would lead to a lot of unnecessary angst and possibly rebellion. It is better to use social media as an opportunity to teach your child about moderation, awareness and Internet safety.

Youth and social media

Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay. Not only has it become a culture-changing phenomenon; it has become a staple in the lives of youth. Here are a few statistics from PEW Research and Sapient to help illustrate just how attached youth are to technology and social media:

  • 92% of teens report going online daily
  • 24% of teens go online “almost constantly”
  • 56% of teens go online several times a day
  • Nearly three-quarters of teens have or have access to a smartphone
  • 79% of young people displayed symptoms of emotional distress when kept away from their personal electronic devices
  • 71% of teens use more than one social network site
  • 71% of all teens use Facebook
  • 52% of all teens use Instagram
  • 41% of all teens use Snapchat

Parenting and social media

If your child reaches the point of experiencing emotional distress when separated from technology you might have a problem, but for the most part, social media – with proper education and rules – can be harmless and even educational.

Here are a few parenting tips for managing your child’s social media use:

Practice moderation

If you do anything 24/7, it is considered unhealthy. Have rules set around when and where your child can use social media and technology. There is no scientifically proven amount of screen time that is considered healthy, so you can choose a number based on your family’s lifestyle, but there are certainly places social media should not be allowed. Your children should not be logged in when at school, at family meals, or when doing their homework. We also highly recommend you use this as a lesson in manners. Too many tweens and teens (and adults!) use their phones when talking to other people. Teach your child to be focused on the people they are with, not their phones. Full engagement in a conversation with another person is a skill and demonstrates respect, empathy, and effective communication skills.

Discuss awareness

We all want our children to understand there are consequences for their actions and social media is one place people learn that lesson very quickly. Spare your child from having to learn this lesson the hard way by looking at newsworthy mistakes others have made and then make the conversation personal by discussing what you both think is appropriate versus inappropriate. You want to make certain you are both on the same page.

Talk about Internet safety

Even though it may seem like it, kids are not born knowing how use technology. They learn how to use devices quickly because they are exposed to them at a young age, but they need to learn about the world and reality from you. They need to learn that not everyone is who they say they are online. They need to learn that giving away personal information is dangerous. They need to learn that nothing – even a Snapchat – disappears once it has been posted online.

Check out the National Children’s Advocacy Center’s website for the specifics on what you need to talk about and for resources to help you and your children stay safe online.

Make it educational

Once you know your children are using social media safely, help them understand it can be used for more than sharing selfies. Help your children find credible news sources, nonprofits and educational accounts to follow on social media and make a point of regularly asking them what they learned on social media.

Make sure that all of the above topics are used as conversation starters – not lecture starters. Your children are going to be much more responsive to a discussion than a lecture. Conversations are also open-ended, which is so important when it comes to social media and Internet safety. At the rate technology changes, you need to have regular conversations about it to make sure you and your children are always staying safe.

Photo copyright: vectomart/123RF

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