Parents are raising an entirely new generation of tech-wiz kids that spend hours behind screens. While there are positives to the world of social media, many parents don’t know the depths of what their kids are watching, who they are talking to, and what really goes on across these platforms. The days of Facebook are over for younger generations, and a whole new array of applications has taken its place. So, how do you effectively keep your kids safe online without overstepping as a parent? Here are a few tips and resources for parents navigating the world of social media.
Educate Yourself on New Social Media Platforms
If you had to name ten social media platforms in under a minute, would you be able to do it? Kids today are all across the board online, which is causing infinite stress for parents today. Here are some popular apps you may (or may not) know about: Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Tinder, Tellonym, WhatsApp, Telegram and TikTok. Many of these sites have public and private features that make it easy for kids to hide from their parents, or conceal their identities online. The more you understand about social media, the easier it is to relate to your child.
Acknowledge That Times Are Changing
As a parent, you are completely justified in wanting to keep your child safe online. However kids today are laughing at memes, using new lingo, and mimicking dance moves to pop songs. Try your best to acknowledge that times are changing. As long as the actions are harmless, allow your kid to have this authentic chapter in their life (even if you don’t understand it).
Try Not to Micromanage Kids, Instead Spark Natural Conversations
Most kids are open to staying safe online, but you don’t want to send them in the opposite direction by yelling at them. Use your wisdom as a parent to talk with your kids about their experiences online, and share tips to keep them safe. Depending on the age of your child, they may not understand why it’s so important to be mindful about communication on the Internet. If you come from a place of love, instead of judgement, you have a better chance of getting through to them.
Come From a Place of Education, Instead of Fear
The goal shouldn’t be to scare your kids about life on the Internet. Instead handle the tough conversations from an educational perspective. Subjects like pornography, grooming, and catfishing can be uncomfortable to bring up. However, if you don’t engage in these conversations with your child, they will get all their information elsewhere.
Give Them Tools for Online Safety and Explain Why It’s Important
Paint a clear picture for children when it comes to online safety. They should not only understand how to stay safe online, but realize why it’s important. Make things about them, and get personal with your child. Allow your child to believe that they are taking these security steps on their own because they don’t want x, y, or z to occur. Build a level of autonomy that goes much deeper than just a parental lecture; it’s a step towards self-responsibility. There are some great resources for parents here regarding online safety.
Understand That Your Child May Not Tell You Everything
Kids are opening social media accounts at younger and younger ages today. Many sites have an age restriction that children override with a fake birthday. You may think your child isn’t on social media or that you don’t need to focus on online safety measures with them. Regardless, it’s better to have these conversations early, so your child is well-equipped with an awareness of the Internet.
Kids Still Need to Use Their Moral Compass Online
Many kids don’t understand that the laws of the internet are no different than real life. People find security saying mean things ‘behind a screen,’ which you should discuss with your kids. If they are ever the victim or aggressor, there is much to be learned by explaining the power of an online moral compass.
Figure Out How to Manage Their Social Media Time
Instead of making time on social media a negative thing, incentivize kids to spend time doing other things. Many kids watch TV, do homework online, browse social media, and spend countless hours behind blue light. Talk to your child about creating a social media schedule or setting restrictions on their phone to give them an uninterrupted ‘focus period’ to complete chores and homework.
The Takeaway: Don’t Make Assumptions About Social Media Use. Get Talking!
For many parents, social media is still a new concept. Kids today know more about the online world than parents. Get educated and stay involved in your child’s internet life. Don’t make assumptions about their social media use; instead, start honest conversations with children. The more you understand about social media, the easier it is to relate and get through to kids. With the Internet, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.