Last week I shared ten things that I want my tweens to know about social media, but this week I am thinking about us parents.
Just 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.
I know it’s 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.
Ten things I want parents to know about 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 my kids able to manage social media, that is something they need to learn, they need to learn by experience and they need me 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 now, when they are tweens, when they still think I have something important to say, now is the 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? I need to make sure they not only knew to basics of cyber safety but how to apply it.
Be aware of self esteem issues
So now my kids know about 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 my kids about this issue is just as important as the cyber safety stuff.
Start with something you know.
The social media platforms my girls 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 with 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 another way to connect 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.
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. Here are a few websites that might help you get started – Tech Savvy Mama, Connect Safely, The Modern Parent, and The Office of The Children’s eSafety Commissioner.
Talk to other parents about it.
Things 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’t 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.