Many children discover social media before they are old enough to realize all the ramifications of posting every detail of your life online. Without leadership from parents and other adults like teachers, children are left to make mistakes with social media that can have lasting consequences for years to come.
Here are some tips for protecting your children and students as they navigate social media.
1. Be friends with your kids and (if appropriate) students.
Teachers may not be allowed to connect with students through social media, or may not feel their posts are child-friendly enough to connect with students, but parents should require their children and teens to connect with them on social media as a way of keeping tabs on their activities.
Parents can also keep a list of passwords for their kids’ social media accounts so that they can monitor them at all times (and delete posts that they feel are inappropriate). Warn children ahead of time that you will be doing this.
2. Give concrete examples of what not to post, and why.
Anecdotes about social media snafus are likely to make kids think more about the possible negative consequences of their actions on social media than a list of dos and don’ts. TV shows aimed at kids and teens have dramatized this issue and may get them to think twice to avoid ending up in a similar situation.
Be specific about the possible consequences—kids have gotten kidnapped by getting emotionally involved with someone online that they have never met. They have been humiliated by intimate photos that are shared publicly. They have been relentlessly cyberbullied. Kids need to know this before they have the chance to get themselves in a similar situation.
3. Have children use computers in a public area, not in bedrooms.
Kids need to know that parents (and teachers, where applicable) could be checking up on them at any time, which will be a strong deterrent to keep their behavior above a certain standard.
4. Keep the lines of communication open.
Children should feel comfortable about talking to their parents and teachers about the difficult things in their lives, including problems that may come up because of their social media use. If you come across as expecting your kids not to make mistakes, they will be more likely to hide things from you. But if you can convey that everyone makes mistakes and you want to help them with the difficult situations rather than punish them, they will be more likely to see you as a resource that can help when things get tough.
5. Set time limits.
The more time kids have on social media, the more likely they will be to find ways to get into trouble there. Kids don’t need unlimited online time, and it’s really not healthy for them to have it, either.
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