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Parents today have a lot more to worry about, thanks to the popularity of social media with young kids. Even something as simple as posting a photo on social media might lead to cyberbullying or inappropriate requests to meet offline from complete strangers. Given these very real risks, parents need to teach their kids to be smart on social media. Here are just some of the practical, concrete steps that they can take.
1 – Talk to your kids about certain online behaviors
No, not “that talk” – a different kind of talk, this one focusing on appropriate and inappropriate behaviors online. It’s impossible to stop kids from saying certain things to others online, of course, but you can educate them about harassment, cyberbullying, and ways to protect online reputation. (Hint: posting risqué photos is not the best way to become more popular with boys)
2 – Adjust the privacy settings on social media
Now that social media companies like Facebook are finally starting to wake up to the perils of privacy violations, they are making it easier for users to adjust their privacy settings. At the very least, make sure your kids know what the default setting are on social media, and how they can adjust their content sharing or geolocation options. There’s nothing worse than realizing that a status update or photo intended for a certain group of people has found its way into the public limelight.
3 – Put limits on social media usage
Just like parents of a generation ago obsessed about TV screen time, the parents of today need to worry about social media screen time. You don’t want your kids wasting hours on Instagram or YouTube when they could be studying for classes or participating in extracurricular activities. Even better – make it a rule that your child can only hang out on social media during certain hours of the day.
4 – Understand who is in your child’s social network
It can be difficult keeping up with who’s in favor, and who’s out of favor with your child, but it’s important to understand who is part of your child’s core social network. Not only does that make it much easier to establish a solid relationship with your child based on trust, but also it makes it easier to spot how changes in online social dynamics can lead to changes in real-world social dynamics.
5 – Learn to spot behavioral and attitudinal changes
Self-esteem and self-worth can be very sensitive matters for kids and young teens, and you certainly want to make sure you spot all the warning signs of cyberbullying or online harassment before it’s too late. If your child is agonizing over the way they are being treated on social media, it might be time to intervene.
Of course, it almost goes without saying that you should never snoop on your kids by accessing their mobile devices or logging into their accounts without their permission. Instead, focus on honest conversations and transparency when it comes to discussing online social interactions. By following a few basic rules of the road, you can protect the reputation, safety and privacy of your child.