Social media surrounds us. Companies and television networks target teens to use social media by liking, following, or tweeting about products and shows. Social media is also a great place to keep up with family and friends. While there is nothing wrong with these things, social media can also be a dangerous place for young people. If you have a child who uses social media, it's important to take steps to protect their online safety.
1. Educate Children on the Risks of Social Media
In addition to going over ground rules, it's important to discuss with your children the risks the internet poses. This will help them understand why your rules are important and could make it easier for them to spot warning signs. They may know more than you do about the latest trends and memes online, but kids aren't always aware of the threats that are out there.
2. Set Ground Rules for Social Media Use
Have a conversation with your kids about what they're allowed to post, the accounts they follow and how often they'll be allowed to use social media. Lay out your ground rules as a team, and clearly communicate the penalties you decide on. They should know that there are consequences for their behavior online, just like in the real world; if they mess up, they'll need to take responsibility and accept those consequences.Try to be considerate and a little flexible here. A simple rule that seems reasonable to you could feel like the end of the world to a kid. For example, your desire to shut down social media use after dinner may shut them out of chats with their best friends who get online every night at that time.
3. Discuss the repercussions of social media.
You don't just need to worry about predators finding your child. You need to discuss with your child how to keep themselves safe from themselves. Posting embarrassing, questionable, or inappropriate pictures can cause potential colleges and employers to reject them. Posting status updates that are rude, offensive, or questionable can also come back to haunt them later.Make sure to discuss with your child that once they put something on social media, it is out in the world and difficult to remove or take back.Speak with your child openly about social media and encourage a trusting environment. Ask your child to talk to you about their social media usage and anything that makes them uncomfortable. If they make a mistake, turn it into a teaching moment instead of enacting a harsh punishment.
4. Regularly check your child’s privacy settings.
Once your child has set up a social media account, it’s important to remain vigilant about keeping their privacy settings updated. Social Media sites are continually adding security settings to ensure that maximum protection is available, but oftentimes they need to be updated manually by the user. Make sure they’re not posting personal details, including phone numbers, address, or check-ins. Social media has become such a normal part of people’s lives that it’s not uncommon for people to share information about themselves that shouldn’t be shared. It’s important that your child understands what kinds of information shouldn’t be shared and why.
5. Don’t allow them to post photos or videos which jeopardize their safety or character.
While most people post pictures and videos with the best intentions, it’s easy for things to be taken the wrong way or out of context and when everyone is online, the wrong message can have long-lasting consequences. Talk to your kids about this and make sure they understand to only post pictures and videos that present themselves and others in a positive light.
6. Warn your child about online flirting.
Talk to your child about how flirty conversations may seem exciting at first but can quickly escalate and lead to feeling uncomfortable or used. Point out common ways people flirt online. These include talking about what you’re wearing (or not wearing) Predators are looking for kids who want to talk dirty and share explicit photos or articles. Help your child know what behavior is acceptable online, including blocking messages from certain users and telling a trusted adult about being harassed.
7. Consider surveillance software.
No one wants to spy on their children. But if you suspect your child is hiding a risky relationship, you might want to consider installing software to monitor her online activities or gain access to instant messages. These methods aren’t foolproof, however. That’s why your best option is to try to discuss things with your child frankly and frequently.
8. Teach your kids about online reputation and help them realize that their online and real-life experiences are more intertwined than they may think.
You might cite current events, like an incident at Harvard some years back when the university revealed that it had rescinded admissions offers to at least 10 students who shared offensive images within what they thought was a private Facebook group chat. The students posted memes and images that mocked minority groups, child abuse, assault and the Holocaust, among other things. Remind adolescents that nothing online is ever completely private and talk to them about the ways private information can become public.
9. Wait until your child is old enough to get a social media account.
All social media sites have minimum age requirements to be able to sign up for an account. These ages are put into place to protect the privacy of children and young people. Make sure not to allow your child to have a social media account when they are younger than the required age. When they reach the minimum age, decide if you feel they are mature enough to sign up for an account.
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