In a world where it seems everyone is sharing daily life with an audience, it makes sense that your kid would want to join in on the fun. You know well, however, that social media isn’t all fun and games. Although it has the power to connect, inform and engage people like never before, social media can also put your child in potentially dangerous situations. With your guidance, your child can safely navigate the pitfalls and celebrate the joys of social media.
Today’s youth is increasingly connected via smartphones, tablets and other devices, but it’s important to remember age limits are typically in place to prevent younger children from using social media. Facebook, for example, requires anyone opening an account to be at least 13 years of age, and requests users to report anyone not abiding by that rule. The age of 13 is the norm across several platforms, while others like YouTube will only allow 13-year-olds to sign up with a parent’s consent.
Even if you feel your child is ready for social media at a younger age, you should always operate within a platform’s terms of service. If you find your child has registered a social media account before you feel they are ready and it is against the rules of a site, use it as a teaching moment with respect to the importance of following rules.
Communicate dos and don’ts
The concept that the entire world can see whatever you post is challenging enough to grasp for adults, let alone children. Therefore, it’s essential to spell out the consequences — both good and bad — of posting things online. Stress that nothing ever truly disappears from the internet, and that posting things in the heat of a moment or emotion can end up hurting or embarrassing your child in the long run. KidsHealth recommends guiding your children to think twice before posting anything to social media; have them ask if what they’re getting ready to put online is the kind of thing they want their teachers, future employers and grandparents to see.
You will also want to ensure your child understands that revealing personal information like your address, phone number and vacation plans is a definite no-no. Your kids know better than to talk to strangers in the real world, and KidsHealth suggests reminding them not to talk to or befriend strangers in the digital world as well. Parenting’s Jeana Lee Tahnk also notes you’ll want to inform your children they shouldn’t fill out any pop-up questionnaires or quizzes or click on random links that promise big prizes.
Establish responsibilities and consequences
If you want your child to be a responsible social media user, it’s imperative you establish clear rules and consequences of disregarding those rules. According to Tahnk, the most effective method of ensuring everyone is on the same page is to draw up a contract outlining your expectations, your child’s responsibilities online and what happens if he doesn’t abide by the contract. If you prefer something a bit less officious, you can come to a verbal agreement. Take the time to make yourself expressly clear and to answer any questions your child might have.
There’s a lot to love about social media, but when it comes to young children, there’s nearly as much to loathe. With these practices, you can help your child stay safe and be smart in the digital world.