Unless your kids are living under a rock or punitively banned from the internet, chances are, they are on social media. While younger kids aren’t always into this communication phenomenon, most are showing interest by the time they have finished grade school. But is social media really a place for your kids to be? Read on to find out more!
What is Social Media?
Social media may show up in the form of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, or any variety of new and different social networking outlets available online. This guide won’t go too far into detail about any particular social media outlet, because by the time you finish reading it, your kids might have already moved onto the next! These sites allow users to share stories, videos, pictures, and more, and to easily search the content through the use of hashtags, categories, or other tools. The goal of social media is to promote socialization; however, keep in mind that the goal of most social media businesses is to generate advertising revenue.
Why Should Kids Use or Not Use It?
Like visiting a playground or talking on the phone, social media is a way for people to connect—especially when working with tweens and teens, this connection can seem like a “vital” part of being “cool” and fitting in. Responsible kids might use social media to share a funny photo with their best friends, “check in” at popular locations, or share the deep and exciting ideas they have on their minds. Unfortunately, social media is also a place for a variety of predators, including bullies, adult predators, advertisers, and other teens who may not be on the best path in life. Social media may be a way for students to exercise peer pressure, expose kids to drug or alcohol use, sexualized activity, violence, and “drama” with peers.
How Can I Keep them Safe?
When thinking about your kids using social media, you might have the urge to say “no. Nope. Never!” but that might not always work. Consider a similar event of taking your child to busy shopping mall. You can’t control who or what your child will see there, and there are risks—but eventually, using public facilities and social networking are skills that your child will need to build. Consider these tips to keep them safe:
- Start together. Explore the sign-up, registration, and settings with your child. That way, you both know these tools work.
- Set boundaries. Just like you might tell a teen that he is absolutely not allowed in women’s lingerie stores, it’s okay to tell him that he cannot visit sexually explicit sites or engage with that material. Likewise, a “no spending” or “no sharing personal information” boundary should be established early on.
- Plan for disaster. What should your daughter do if her new crush sends her a “snap” of his privates or requests one of hers? Your teen may not know how to respond to these situations, and it’s your job to give her these tools! When you discuss these situations in advance, your teen is less likely to “freeze up” or hide these things in the future.
- Check in. Sign up for your own account, and let your child know when and how you will be checking in. Don’t “butt in” and try to be his friend on social media—just keep a watchful eye, just like when he has friends over.
If your child or teen is struggling with social media issues, consider seeking the advice of a Littleton child behavior psychologist. Dr. Steve Lazarus has plenty of experiencing helping kids (and parents!) navigate the challenging world of social media, and would be happy to share these insights with your family. To get started, fill out the Contact Form.
Categories: Parenting Strategies