In today’s world, it’s just about impossible for kids to completely avoid social media. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to prepare your children to live in a society where social media is so dominant. Crème de la Crème put together some tips for navigating the ins and outs of social media use.

Set Ground Rules

A young boy uses social media on his tablet

Boy using iPad with headphones on” used with permission via Unsplash by emily_wade

Once your kids are old enough and you feel they’re ready, you may let them start using various social media accounts. However, before diving in, it’s important to have a conversation to set key ground rules. Kids should understand their behavior online has consequences — just like actions they take in the real world.

So, set down some ground rules together as a team. Make sure you communicate clearly the penalties you set for breaking any ground rules. That said, try to come into the discussion with certain flexibility so you can have an open dialogue. While “no social media after dinner” may sound reasonable to you, it may feel like the end of the world to your child if that’s when their best friend always signs on.

Be Aware of Privacy Settings

Overall, you’ll want to maintain some familiarity with any platform your child uses. You’ll also want to look into privacy settings, as these can change at any moment. Main things to watch out for include:

  • Content filters.
  • Location privacy.
  • Personal information.
  • Private profile options.

Knowing how to understand privacy settings is essential for caregivers helping their kids navigate social media. Even the most prepared kids need guidance sometimes!

Maintain an Open Dialogue

Regardless of how you feel about it, a huge portion of the lives of young people does occur online these days. Keeping your lines of communication open with your kids will allow you to discuss both expectations and limits to online behavior in a positive way.

You can learn from your kids, just like they learn from you. You’re there to impart guidance, supervision, and above all, safety. While you can’t shield your kiddo from everything, you can give them practical tools, like using secure passwords and keeping private information private. Ensure you communicate frequently, including by talking about and reinforcing your rules.

Kids can learn to be accountable for their own behavior and actions so that they make good choices when posting on social media. You can also teach your children how to be careful and observant, a must for dealing with friend requests and potentially unwanted attention online. Things aren’t always as they seem to be on social media (and beyond!), and kids that understand this from a young age can recognize when their intuition tells them something is off online.

Understand Cyberbullying

Unfortunately, it’s not unlikely that your child will encounter some form of cyberbullying once they dive into social media. You have two main jobs as the adult here: You can help keep your child safe from unkind online behavior and prevent them from becoming a bully themselves.

To do so, have an open discussion about how online words can be just as hurtful and destructive as in-person bullying. Teach your child that they should come to their virtual interactions with this in mind. You want your child to feel comfortable coming to you if they do encounter cyberbullying on social media.

Educate Kids About the Risks

Beyond cyberbullying, social media comes with inherent risks. When discussing ground rules, be open and honest in an age-appropriate way about these risks. Doing so helps take your rules out of the “because-I-said-so” territory and make it so kids can see why your rules are actually important. Educating kids on internet risks will also make it easier for them to recognize warning signs.

Not only should kids know that they should never meet an internet “friend” without your supervision, but they should also understand that anything they post is out in the world. Again, this goes back to open dialogue. Show kids that you can provide a guiding hand when they have questions or concerns so that they come to you if they encounter anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Build Life Skills That Create Positive Online Behavior

Various life skills help kids successfully navigate relationships and interactions with other people, both online through social media and in “real life.” Even if your kiddo is too young to use a computer or tablet on their own, you can start instilling skills that will allow them to navigate our social media centric world down the road.

For example, kids can learn respect and kindness from a young age. Kids that can respect others’ beliefs and treat people with kindness can better grapple with the world of social media. Cultivate a relationship with your child so that they feel comfortable coming to you if they witness troubling behavior from others online. At the same time, teach kids to show consideration and thoughtfulness toward others. Teaching kids acceptance from a young age positions them to advocate for others, respect differences, and succeed even in an increasingly online environment.

Helping kids build self-awareness also goes a long way. Social media can exert tons of pressure on young minds, but kids who understand their own character and feelings are in a better place to navigate this. Likewise, kids who can self-regulate and think before they act will have more willpower when they encounter emotional situations online.

Finally, empathy and honesty are also key. Kids who take an empathetic approach to posting online while being honest when they encounter negativity can better deal with the pressures they may feel with online interactions. 

These are all life skills you can foster in your kids long before they make their first social media account. The better foundation kids have before logging on for the first time, the better prepared they’ll be to live in a social media centric world.

That wraps up Crème de la Crème’s tips for helping prepare your children for the world of social media. Do you have other strategies that have worked for you when discussing social media use and rules with your child? If you do, drop us a line! We’d love to share more tips with families.