Starting the conversation: Talking to your child about social media
Social interaction has changed dramatically in the last decade. Texts have replaced face-to-face interaction. With that said, social media can be engaging and fun. Understanding the online world is more than sharing posts and pictures. Talk to your kids about the benefits and the dangers of social media. Teach them how to be safe online.
Pros of Social Media
- Staying connected – The greatest benefit to social sites is bridging gaps and distances with friends and family. Social sites bring people closer.
- Research – Social media filters news feeds with information and products relevant to your interests. Following companies and people opens more access.
- Self-expression – Social media provides avenues of creativity and critique. Videos, pictures and art can claim audiences, entertain, and gain exposure.
Dangers of online engagement
- Privacy – Generations today share more. People can find out more. Kids must be aware of pedophiles and strangers when engaging in conversations online.
- Questionable content – just because it is on the Internet doesn’t mean it is true. Advertising and sponsorships are driving a good portion of information filtered to social media news feeds. Some are not recognized and many may not be trustworthy. Determining a site’s credibility can be difficult.
- Lack of social interaction – Can kids converse in face-to-face settings anymore? Some believe they can’t. Online interactions like ‘defriending’ can also escalate to cyberbullying and depression among kids.
Four essential discussions to staying safe online
Teaching online safety is a continuous conversation. Set ground rules about passwords, privacy, posts, and pictures. Monitor their pages and sites. Your child should understand that any site they are on, you will also be on – as their ‘friend’.
Only two sources should know your kids’ password: your kid and you. Lock devices and sites to ensure personal information and identities cannot be stolen. Set rules. All content is accessible to all parties at any time.
Online safety leads to personal safety. Use parental controls to limit what children can access online. As well, make sure the world is limited to what can be seen about your child online. If using a full name, do not use addresses, phone numbers, or other personal information. Talk to your child about what to share with the public and what to keep private.
Biggest lesson: once posted, it’s out there for all to see. Post wisely. Be respectful and use clean language. When posting on social media, consider what information is being shared. Is it age appropriate? Can it be hurtful or misunderstood? Finally, how frequently are kids posting? Talk to your child about ‘etiquette’. Mostly importantly, monitor what they post.
Visual draws us in. Kids love to post selfies, pictures and video. Set rules: tasteful, anonymous, appropriate.
Be a role model of social media usage. Follow the same guidelines you expect your kids to abide by – it goes back to the basics:
- Who will see your posts?
- What are you posting? (ie. Do you want your kids to see it?)
- Where are you when you post? Do you want the location known?
- When are you posting? Ten times a day? Too often?
- Why are you posting? Funny? Embarrassing? Inspiring?
- How are you posting and texting? At a stoplight? During a conversation with others? During a class or meeting?
Do they have rules to live by? Make sure you do too.
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