So many parents and caregivers these days are grappling with social media use. Your children see their friends and peers posting constantly, and they want to get in on the fun. Of course, social media has a darker side, and you want to keep your kids protected if they are using social media. Crème de la Crème put together this list of actions you can take to keep your kids safe online.
Protect Personal Details
As soon as your child starts using social media, you’ll want to lay down ground rules for sharing personal information. Kids using social media might not think twice before giving away personal details. If they think they’re interacting with someone their own age, alarm bells might not go off like they would for an adult.
So, create strict guidelines about what is and isn’t OK to share online, reminding your kids that anything they share has the potential to remain public forever. Kids should always think twice before they post. For instance, they should be wary of sharing when you’re away from your home on vacation and avoid giving out specific locations and phone numbers.
Privacy settings are key, too. Involve your kid in the process by going through all of the settings together and making sure your child understands each one and why they’re important. Explain the importance of passwords to protect against identity theft and other dangers, and emphasize that they should never share these passwords with anyone — including a best friend or boyfriend or girlfriend.
Keeping your kids safe on social media goes beyond protecting things like addresses and passwords. Especially for children and teens, social media can heighten the tendency to compare oneself to others. Kids are impressionable, and many young social media users feel devastated when they think they don’t measure up to their peers. That feeling is only magnified on social media. Your child sees all the great things other kids they know are doing. At the same time, they’re seeing other children their age all around the world living their best lives.
Help your child put this all into perspective by emphasizing that everyone is different — they can only be themselves, and that’s a great thing to be. You can also remind your child that social media doesn’t usually show anything like real life. Social media users snap photos out of context, use filters, and employ Photoshop. A photo doesn’t really show anything about a person’s happiness or the problems they face. Helping your child gain perspective about social media can help improve their mental health and keep them safe in that way.
Emphasize Being Nice
On the flip side, make sure your kids know mean behavior is not OK, on or offline. Be clear with your expectations that your kids should treat others with respect and avoid posting embarrassing or hurtful messages. When you have this discussion, create an open line of communication so they know they can always tell you if they encounter harassing or bullying messages online.
You can also teach your children that they shouldn’t share anything they wouldn’t want teachers or future bosses to come across. If you have younger kids, keep things in perspective by saying they shouldn’t share anything on social media that they wouldn’t want their grandparents to see.
Consider Stricter Monitoring
Trust is important for your relationship with your child, but a range of online threats means you can’t always take your child’s word when they say everything is fine. Think about using parental monitoring programs to ensure you can see what your kids are up to. You can be open with them about the need for this kind of monitoring to maintain trust while still protecting their safety.
Kids don’t always have the life experience to identify threats accurately. They also may not fully realize the consequences of their actions online. By staying involved, you can stop problems before they begin.
Understand the Meaning of Friends
Talk to your kids about the difference between their real friends and “friends” they have online. You’ll want to make sure they don’t start trying to curate the biggest list of friends, especially if they start posting inappropriate content to bring in the “likes.”
Kids should also understand that people they encounter online may not be real. Help them look out for catfishing (when people use fake names, pictures, or other details) in an age-appropriate way, and make rules that your kids should not “friend” people they don’t know in “real life” — people they talk to via DM, or direct messaging, don’t count. Young social media users are usually happier when they follow people who are actually their friends.
Maintain Open Communication
You are your child’s first line of defense, so maintaining open communication is key. If your child knows they can communicate with you without judgment, they’re more likely to share if something happens. Make sure your child knows that bullying is never acceptable and that you have their back, and back that up by taking action if they do encounter bullying online.
Even if you’re communicating openly on a regular basis, keep in mind that kids won’t always seek help if they need it. It’s important that you stay alert and proactive. Watch out for red flags like changes in mood or behavior, such as losing interest in a favorite activity or changes in appetite. Sure, your child may just need a little space, but don’t shy away from digging deeper when they say they’re fine.
Kids sometimes feel so overwhelmed that they don’t know how they can communicate what has happened to you. By staying alert, you can help your child deal with any issues that arise before the problem becomes even bigger.
That wraps up Crème de la Crème’s guide to keeping young social media viewers safe. Do you have any tips for parents struggling with this issue? Drop us a line so we can share additional advice with families in our community.