Social Media has taken the world by storm in its own way throughout the different generations. Through its ability to aid with communicating with others around the world, and keeping up with trends and news; social media has its perks, but also its dangers. If we don’t teach our children and adolescents a safe way to have an online presence, we leave them to learn on their own or by peers.
Something that most of us heard while growing up was the phrase ‘Stranger Danger’. However, we learned that strangers were the ‘weird’ lone adult at the park watching us play, or the person driving the van offering candy to help find their puppy. Stranger Danger has evolved with the internet and now we have to worry about adults posing as other children, or even grooming children as they pose as a kind, when in reality they are a danger to the youth. Before considering getting your children a phone it is important that your child is aware of the responsibility of having this privilege. Some key ways to engage and practice responsibility with getting a phone.
- Is your child educated on the risks and benefits of technology?- Providing education on what not to put out on the internet is essential to avoid child predators.
- Do they need a smartphone or a flip phone? Just like you, it might be important to ease into access to social media and learn the ins and outs of technology. Having the conversation with your child’s support team on their current needs on the device that is more appropriate.
- What monitoring will you do on your child’s phone and are you aware of how to restrict applications or websites that might not be age appropriate?
- First and foremost, set the tone. Begin your conversation in a calm, neutral manner.
- Teach them that social media is not private, and things they share online can last forever. This may include not putting your name as usernames, sharing your address, phone number or school. Identifying information and pictures can give clues to predators about whereabouts and are often not advised to put online.
- Talk with them about age-appropriate social media platforms and providing education on social media is not real life. Depending on your child’s age, they can be influenced by trends or social media icons. It is important to continue to have the talk that social media is not real life.
- Share with your child information about knowing who they are talking to! Hint: on social media and the internet, you don’t ever know who you are conversing with! Phones can be picked up by anyone and used to post on other behalf or those pretending to be someone else might be interacting with your child.
- Communication & Trust
- Establish open communication with your child: One of the easiest ways for a kid to know they can come to us when things go wrong, is for us to welcome them to come to us when things are going right, or even just average. Give your kids time and a listening ear when you are able. If they come to you, and you don’t have time; set a time to circle around and talk about whatever they have on their minds.
- Discuss safety concerns and what to look out for with social media. Teach your child about the predators that may be online and the different forms they might come in: someone pretending to be a child, a seemingly trustworthy adult, etc.
- Get to know and trust their friends. This means knowing who your child is in contact with online and in person, and what their relationship looks like or means to them. Once observing or getting to know your child’s friend, start a conversation with the family. For example: a best friend that is used as a support system is probably someone that a parent should know how to reach in case of emergencies.
- Monitor & Access Control
- Determine if social media is appropriate for your child to use and what is an appropriate amount of access. This can fluctuate depending on age range and maturity, but decide what you feel is best for your family and children as necessary.
- Monitor the use of your child’s social media if possible. Monitoring should include weekly check-ins, having the password to accounts, or limiting access to all or certain sites.
- Know When Social Media Needs to be Removed
- When your child spends excessive time on devices- set the boundary up front of what is appropriate time on the devices or social media. Limiting to an hour might be recommended and finishing homework or chores first prior to use may be helpful. Sleep may be impacted if your child is staying up late on their devices.
- When your child is using technology inappropriately. This may look different to each family but our goal is to keep your child and family safe due to not knowing who is on the other side of the screen.
- One area to consider is whether your child needs their devices removed, or rather if increased monitoring is necessary by the parents to better address these areas. Social media can still provide benefits to your child- strong social connections to their peers, information passing between peers, etc. and is also an integral part of social systems for children.