While we like to focus on what our clients should do on Social Media, we sometimes forget that Social Media starts a lot earlier-with kids! And while we believe that Social Media is, in the bigger picture, a great source of inspiration and learning, it can also be harmful, especially to younger people! In this post we examine a few things that parents need to know so that parents are comforted in the knowledge that their children are following safe practices on Social Media.
- Importance of Consent-
- Lead by example: ask your children - in this day in age, consent is a word that gets used a lot, and its meaning is starting to disappear. By the time your child gets old enough, ask them "is it OK if I post this photo of you on Facebook?" "Is it OK for me to send this picture you drew to Grandma?" Make them understand that what is theirs (pictures, drawings, writing, etc) is ultimately their responsibility. Not only does this reinforce the fact that they have the choice, but that they should also bear the consequences of their actions even though they don't have Social Media yet (hopefully at this age there won't be too many consequences!).
- Features of approving tagging - For those whose children are already on Social Media, make sure that you speak to them about their settings. Often on Social Meida, settings are automatically set to public and free. This means that any of your friends can tag you in something without your approval. However, most social media channels will allow you add a feature that will only tag you once you have approved it. Explain this to your children, and encourage them to use this feature!
- Security Settings: The overview
- As a follow-up from the above, there are many security settings one can play around with on social media channels. You can set a default on all your posts to either be private to your friends only, friends of friends, or public. You can even make customized settings! I also have different friends list that are banned from seeing certain things. Ex-English language students, for example, won't see any pictures I post but will see posts I share such as articles. But for younger students, they may want to make a few different lists: Friends from School, Friends Outside of School, Family. And within these lists, give them different settings. Maybe family will be allowed to see more than Friends Outside School, and Friends from School can see a medium amount? Encourage them to think about who they want to see the social media posts that they share.
- Your children should also ONLY EVER ADD people they know! No strangers! Even if it's a friend of a friend, a good rule of thumb is to only add people they have met in real life.
- Keep Communication Open
- The worse thing for any parent is for their children to stop talking to them or to stop going to them for advice. Make sure you always stay as patient as possible when discussing social media and Internet usage; give them the trust (and space!) to make decisions for themselves. As a parent, you can explain things as thoroughly as possible and share your own personal experiences: "Once Grandma saw this selfie of me and it was super awkward because I was doing that duck face and I don't know if anyone should really have been seeing that...", or "My friends would tag me in these photos that were really inappropriate and I wish I could take them back!"
- Do things with them rather than against them! Does your 11 year old daughter want to start a YouTube channel about something, and does that totally terrify you? Instead of getting angry and forbidding it, why not become part of the process? "Yes let's do this together, I'll be your camera-person and help you edit". Become part of the process so that they feel supported (and you can chaperone!), thus more willing to come to you with issues online.
- Limiting time on Social Media/Computer
- As with anything in life, everything should come in bite-sized pieces of moderation. This is so with computers and social media. Make sure you set clear -cut ground rules with your children. Individual practices vary, but common ones are: that your children shouldn't use social media in the bedroom, they have to turn their phones in to you at 9pm every night (or whatever time suits you), and they can have it back on their way to school the next morning. Computer time should also be limited, so, if possible, keep computers and tablets outside of the bedroom.
- Other innovative Internet Age parenting comes in the form of changing wifi passwords. Some households change the wifi passwords until all the chores are done (this can be tricky if students need Internet to do their homework).
As you can see, there is no perfect answer to what to do with the rise of Social Media and the resulting scramble of parents to protect their children from the scary online world. In fact, it's not always super scary, it can be a really great learning tool- if used in the right way. By being present, and being a friend rather than an enemy, you will be able to make a difference in regards to your child's experience on Social Media. They need to know that they can go to you with a problem rather than try to hide it from you.