Many parents face the dilemma of helping their children navigate social media. Almost all young people use one of the top three social media sites – Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Avoiding their participation is not possible. Even if your child does not access social media at home, they will use their friends at school or when visiting friends’ homes. Your child needs help making decisions and it is your responsibility to provide guidance. There are some ways to do so without alienating your child while still providing for their safety.
Be Honest with Your Child
Convey your concerns honestly and in a forthright manner. Telling you child how much you care about them and their happiness goes a long way in getting them to listen to your concerns openly. Share with them that the Internet never forgets; what they post will be online and accessible forever. Explain to them that you are going to take some steps to help them navigate their social media with safety. Then do the following:
Set up boundaries and then define them clearly. Once they are set, modify them only to meet the age and maturity level of your child. For example, many parents only allow one social media account for their child at first and encourage friending relatives and family friends. If your child’s aunts and uncles are seeing their posts, they are probably going to be less likely to post unacceptable content. As they get older and more responsible, allow them to add another social media account if they wish to do so.
Make sure you reserve the right to look at their Facebook inboxes, Twitter feeds, or Instagram posts. Let your child know up-front that you will be checking. However, remember that your child will probably post some things you do like. Do not overreact, but talk to your child to help them understand why some postings are probably not a good idea.
Many parents have a social media account solely to have access to their children’s accounts. Additionally, require your kids to friend or follow you. If you are concerned about some of their social media friends, talk to your child about how they know the individual. Explain to your child that friends made on social media may not be who they seem to be.
Computer use can be monitored easily simply by making sure computer screens can be viewed. Consider having computers in a family area of your home. If you child has a computer in their room, set the system up so that the screen can be seen from the doorway and require the door be left open when your child is online.
Remember that kids will be kids. Your child is likely to make some mistakes using social media. Do not be too hard on them but correct their behavior. Do not freak out over everything they do and say on social media. With loving concern and open conversations, navigating social media with children can be a positive and safe experience.