These social media tips for parents will help you navigate the tricky road of allowing your kids to use social media.
Rather than being fill with doom and gloom, and all the pitfalls to look out for, this list of ten things I want parents to know about social media is fill with lots of positives, and helpful ways to keep our kids safe while still allowing them to learn about and enjoy social media.
Last week I shared ten things that I want my tweens to know about social media, and this week I am thinking about us parents.
Just the thought of our kids using social media, and how on earth we will manage all of that, is enough to make most of us want to hide under the bed covers and never come out ever, ever again!
But we can’t avoid it forever! One day our kids will grow up, and even if they are not interested right now, eventually they will want to find out what this ‘social media’ thing is all about, so let’s be prepared rather than scared.
Even if your kids are not ready for a mobile phone, they can still access social media via other devices. But if you are thinking about getting your child a cell phone, there are lots of things to be aware off, but there are also lots of positives too – check out this great list of advantages of mobile phones for children.
What parents should know about social media.
I know our kids being on social media feels really huge and scary, but I know we’ll cope better, and our kids will be better off if we parents spend some time learning about the big bad social media monster, and thinking about how best to deal with it for our families. So here are a few things that I think are important to consider about when it comes to our kids and social media.
Waiting might not be the best idea.
I know it’s tempting to just ban all social media until our kids are 16, but my gut feeling is that waiting too long is a bad move.
Being ‘old enough’ won’t magically make our kids able to manage social media, that is something they need to learn. They need to learn by experience, and they need someone to teach them. While I don’t expect my kids to suddenly stop talking to me when they become teenagers, I do know that our connection will stretch and outside influences will become more important as they get older, that’s how it should be, but that also means that when they are tweens, when they still think I have something important to say, is the best time to teach them about social media.
Make sure they understand cyber safety basics.
I assumed my kids knew the basics of cyber safety and they yeah-yeah-we-know-ed me when I initially talked about it, and they did know the ‘rules’ but how they applied in real life was a whole different thing. Sure they knew not to share their location online, but did they know to check that social media apps were not automatically sharing their location without them knowing? Sure they knew that it wasn’t ok for someone to bully someone online, but did they know who to tell, or that you can block or report people?
You need to make sure your kids not only know to basics of cyber safety but also how to apply them.
Be aware of self esteem issues
My kids know about the safe use of the internet, and while I’m sure they’ll make mistakes on that front, that is not what worries me most. My biggest worry is the comparison and self esteem hits that seem so often to be magnified by social media.
It’s so easy for our kids to get caught up in the idea that they are not ‘good enough’ or ‘pretty enough’ unless x number of people like their photo or re-share their comment. Talking to our kids about this issue is just as important as the cyber safety stuff, if not more so!
Start with something you know.
You need to know how social media works to help your kids navigate it safely, so pick a platform that you know and feel comfortable on to start with.
The social media platforms my kids first have access to as beginners are ones that I know and use often. I did that on purpose. I did it so it was not a chore for me to supervise them, so I didn’t have to remember to log on somewhere special just to make sure they were doing ok. I did it so I knew how to manage privacy settings, and I knew the common pitfalls and what to expect. And I did is so I could actually enjoy it with my girls, so we could have fun and learn together.
Do it with them.
So snap chat might not be my thing, but if my kids want an account there you can bet I’ll have one too. I am going to use the social media that my kids are using, partly so I can supervise, partly so I can stay on top of how each platform works, but also as a way to stay connected with my kids.
Sharing on social media is a great way to stay connected with older kids, it’s fun, it’s easy and it might just give me some new insight into my kids.
Set Limits, but avoid using social media as punishment or a bribe.
Clear, firm limits on when, how much, and how you use social media are important, everyone needs to know where they stand, and what happens when the limits are broken.
We have some very clear limits and consequences, but I try hard not to use social media as either a bribe or a punishment for unrelated behavior. I don’t want to set social media up as something that is so much better than everything else, instead I want to encourage responsible use, self regulation and balance. I talk more about our limits and how we encourage balance here.
Don’t feel guilty about supervising your kids.
You need to supervise your kids on social media just like you’d supervise them in the swimming pool until you feel they were old enough, responsible enough, and prepared enough not to drown. So do it. Don’t feel guilty about keeping passwords, following your kids, checking in, or looking over their shoulder.
This is not an invasion of privacy because nothing on the internet is private, and if your kids wouldn’t say it to you they shouldn’t be sharing it on social media either. But once you feel your kids are old enough to manage the pitfalls of social media, give them some personal space. It’s ok for older teen to keep some things private from their parents, and if you’ve built a strong, open relationship they’ll talk to you when they need to.
You can keep on top the next latest thing.
I know it feels overwhelming and you might not know everything there is to know about all social media, but you know how to google right? You know how to use facebook right? So use the tools you know to find out about the things you don’t know. Follow some facebook pages that cover this stuff, read some blogs that talk about it, it’s your job to stay informed and it’s not as impossible as people make it out to be.
Talk to other parents about it.
Things feel so much less daunting when we share them. Talk with other parents about how they are managing social media with their kids, talk to the parents of your kids friends especially. Share ideas, share information, find out what their limits are, help each other supervise the kids online.
We are not all going to agree about everything, especially when it comes to social media, but that’s ok. It’s helpful to know and be able to explain to your kids why their friend is not on instagram just yet, or that yes you know their friend has facebook already but you want to wait, and it’s super helpful to not feel alone in managing this.
Social media is not all bad
It’s easy for the negatives about social media to be amplified, but there are so many great things about social media, don’t let fear or worries stop you from showing your kids how positive and enjoyable this technology can be. And don’t let it stop you from teaching your kids. Social media is here to stay, lets learn to make the best of it.
Do your kids use social media?
I know we will all tackle this situation slightly differently, and there is no one right way to manage this. We all need to do what’s best for our kids, in our current situation, but that doesn’t mean we can stick our heads in the sand and hope it just happens by itself.
So lets talk – Is there anything you would add to this list? Anything you think we parents need to know to keep our kids safe and happy online? Any great websites or resources that would be helpful?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.