Social Media is a growing industry. For kids, this means there are more devices, more things to do on devices and more ways to communicate. It’s also cool to have a device (like a phone) and have your friends watch that cool video on your phone!
As parents we often hear about how bad it is for children to watch too much TV or spend too much time on the Internet, but some studies have shown that children can actually build communication, social or technical skills. And for special needs children, often programs specifically designed for TV, I pad or computer can be a “saving grace” as a learning tool option.
For those of us on the hunt for the best way to help our kids, here are some ways parents can help kids maneuver through the world of social media and technology. Please check out the references at the end for additional information:
- KNOW WHAT YOUR CHILD IS DOING. Take the time to get to know which devices your children spend the most time on.
A NOTE ABOUT PRIVACY: experts, across the board, suggest that parents get involved, yes, even with teens. Their privacy is important but making sure they are safe should always come first. This includes teaching them smart choices good boundaries, critical tools for maneuvering through media.
- KEEP AN OPEN DIALOGUE WITH YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT WHAT THEY ARE VIEWING. Ask questions with curiosity, not judgment. Ask them to tell you about it. Gather information first so your child doesn’t feel attacked. If there is a concern, start with a positive statement like “wow that’s great you like that site and know so much about it” and then bring in your concern, “I’m wondering about that guy you mentioned that keeps hacking, does that effect your account?” Follow up with an action option “so what can you do about it?” or “did you know you can block people like that?” Turn it into a teaching opportunity.
- LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF TIME CHILDREN SPEND ON DEVICES WHEN POSSIBLE. Less is better. It’s better for the brain. Extended use of computers and devices has been correlated with higher rates of depression. Moderation is good.
- BE AWARE AND TEACH YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT SECURITY. Explain to them about why security is needed and what is not appropriate behavior, for them and for others. Kids need to learn to protect what is theirs from the beginning, not after they have lost something valuable. They also need to know how to put up appropriate boundaries. Educate children about the importance of screen names or gaming names, and never stating their full name or their age. They also should never provide their address, phone number, your credit card information or an IP address. Also educating them about keeping passwords private is a must.
There are online filtering software apps like “Net Nanny”, that allows you to monitor sites, block chats and filter content. Xfinity has a parental control feature to password protect certain channels. Search for “filtering software” to learn more about this option. Some phones also have a location device feature on their phone, allowing parents to track the physical location of their child.
Subscription service for smartphone monitoring and control capabilities by TeenSafe.com.
Info about parental controls for cell phone carriers: 11 Mobile Parental Controls from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint & T-Mobile from Internet-Safety-YourSphere.com
Info about parental controls for computer sites and online gaming: Parental Controls by StaySafeOnline.org.
Info about parental controls on gaming devices: Gaming With Guidance: How to Set Up Parental Controls on Modern Consoles, Handhelds, and Computers by DigitalTrends.com.
- TAKE AN ACTIVE INTEREST IN WHAT YOUR CHILD IS POSTING. Children will not automatically know what boundaries to use when texting or posting on Facebook, Instagram etc., so this is a great topic to keep an open dialogue. Children up to the age of adulthood often will feel something but may not be able to put words to the experience or know what their choices are. Dialoguing about what bullying is, what safety means, what boundaries are is a language they need help to develop. Educate them about bullying, what it is, what is sounds like, how it makes people feel and what they can say in response. Give kids words or statements to choose from so they are ready when the conversation comes. Information and choices give kids power.
- ADVOCATE FOR YOUR KIDS WHEN NECESSARY. Yes, they do need to learn to fight their own battles, but sometimes a parent’s support can go a long way. Some online games have “reporting” features so players can report kids who are hacking and doing inappropriate things. Developers often have contact information on the site. It doesn’t always work but having a child see a parent advocate for them is a good thing. It also offers the opportunity for the parent to talk with the child about they could have done differently to avoid the situation. And it reminds your child that even though they saw someone else make bad choices, it’s still wrong and they should never follow suit.
References and Resources:
Media Benefits for Children and Teenagers by RaisingChildren.net.au.
The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families from Pediatrics.AAPPublications.org
Top Social Network Demographics 2017 [Infographic] by OurSocialTimes.com.
40 Essential Social Media Marketing Statistics for 2017 by WordStream.org.
Six Tips For Keeping Teens Safe On Social Media from Kids.USA.gov.
13 Tips for Monitoring Kids’ Social Media by Parenting.com
6 Expert Tips for Keeping Your Kids Safe on Social Media by Kyli Singh on Mashable.com.
Social media related articles from CommonSenseMedia.org.
Rules for Social Media, Created by Kids by Devorah Heitner from the NYTimes.com.
Best Facebook Parental Controls Review by TopTenReviews.com.
The Good Digital Parenting blog from Family Online Safety Institute(Fosi.org.)