Social media offers an opportunity to connect and share with others, but it can also expose your child to bullying, negativity and potentially dangerous individuals. Take these steps to help your child safely navigate the world of social media and capitalize on its benefits.
Set screen time limits
Social media at its core is designed to entertain, connect and engage users. That’s why time seems to lose all meaning when your kids are tweeting, reading, clicking and sharing. Hours can go by in what feels like a blink of an eye. To help safeguard your children’s time and encourage them to foster other interests, limit their screen time. “Unstructured and offline play stimulates creativity. Make unplugged playtime a daily priority, especially for very young children,” recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Keep private information secure
Appearances can be deceiving on social media, and it’s important your kids understand that just like in the real world, not everyone can be trusted. Remind them connecting with someone they don’t know is not a safe idea. A friend request from a stranger should never be accepted, and sharing pictures can be problematic, as some apps reveal to users where the photos have been taken. Remind your child to not share identifiable information such as their full name, birthdate, location or name of their school. Make sure you help your kids set the appropriate privacy settings on each of their social media accounts.
Stay up to date
It seems every other second there is a new, hot social media app. With the rapidity of change, it’s hard to keep up with what apps are safe for your kids to use. Keep the line of communication between you and your children open. Ask about what apps they’re using and research them on your own. If your kids want to try a new app, tell them you need to investigate it first before they can sign up.
Remember the forever rule
Anything your kids post will last forever in cyberspace. Even if they think they erase it or take it down, their words, comments or pictures never truly go away. What they post now can live to haunt them for years to come. Potential employers, school boards, friends and family, along with anyone else using the internet can find and judge their content.
Monitor their activity
Your kids may refuse your friend request or block you from their posts because they don’t want their social media activity monitored, or don’t want their friends to think you’re looking over their shoulder. You might feel hesitant to invade their privacy, but it’s important that you are keeping an eye on them. “As long as they are minors, I believe it’s wise for parents or guardians to check their children’s social media posts,” according to Psychology Today writer Tim Elmore. Apps such as DinnerTime, Norton and TeenSafe will help you keep tabs on your kids’ online activity.
Social media is a complicated outlet with many pros and cons. These tips can help your child understand how to protect themselves online and use social media to enhance their life instead of adding more stress to their development.