My girls are 12 years old, according to facebook’s rules they are almost old enough for a facebook account.
While my girls don’t have facebook, since the start of the year they have had an account on another social media platform, and they use email and other services for school. Social media is becoming part of their lives.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about social media and the internet, and what my kids need to learn to navigate it all safely and happily, and apart from the usual safety guidelines there are some other things that I think are important for my kids to know.
Ten Things I Want my Tweens to Know About Social Media
The internet is not private.
Nothing you share online is private, ever.
It may feel private, but once you share information online, in any format, you loose some control over it. This is especially true for social media. You may think you are only sharing the information with a select few friends, but you can never know what happens to something after you put it out there. Use that information to inform your choices.
Social media moves like wild fire and it’s very hard to put out.
Part of the joy of the internet is that you can reach a whole lot of people, super fast. That means you can use the internet to do so many amazing things, but it also means that negative things can get out of control very, very, quickly. And once it’s out there it is very very difficult to get rid of it. Think about what you are sharing online, and if you are not prepared to have it shouted from the roof tops and shared with the world, keep it to yourself.
Be safe even if it is uncool.
Know what safe internet use is and adhere to those guidelines – don’t share your full name, or your location, or the name of your school…ever, even if that makes you seem uncool.
There are good and bad people everywhere, even on the internet.
Not everyone on the internet is evil, but social media can make it easier for people to be mean, or inappropriate. That doesn’t mean everyone online is out to get you, just be aware and cautious when you need to, just like you are in real life.
Think about what a friend is.
These days we are asked to ‘friend’ people online we’ve never met and probably never will meet. You need to understand that being ‘friends’ on social media is not the same as being friends in real life. What you share with online friends, and what you expect from them, is not the same as the relationship you have with friends in real life.
The power of the ‘like.’
With the tap of a finger or the click of a button that little ‘like’ or ‘friend’ or comment can make us feel awesome, or awful.
Don’t give social media power over your self-esteem.
It is easy to hide behind a screen.
It’s easy to feel detached from reality, or to hide behind the screen, and make poor choices about how we interact with people online, but remember there are real people behind each avatar. Be the sort of person online that you want to be in real life. And if you see others behaving badly or bullying, call them on it, or ask for help.
Don’t fall into the comparison trap
Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your real life with someone else’s online life. It’s easy to make your life seem way more awesome online than it really is.
I will supervise you.
Just like when you were learning to walk and I held your hand, or when you were learning to read and I pointed to each word, I will help you learn how to navigate social media. That means I will talk to you about it, I’ll sit beside you and show you, and I’ll look over your shoulder while you use social media. It also means that I will make rules, I will know your passwords, and I will check on what is going on, and sometimes I will say no or make you remove things or ‘unfriend’ people. I will take an active role in helping you learning how to use social media until I feel like you can manage it on your own, and I’ll always be around to talk to about it.
Switching off is your most powerful tool.
If you see something that makes you feel uncomfortable, or if social media is making you upset or down on yourself, switch off and walk away.
Do your kids use social media?
Is there anything you would add to this list? Anything you think they need to know to be safe and happy online?
It’s not always easy negotiating this stuff as a parent. I’ve shared my thoughts on what parents need to know about tweens and social media here, but I’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment share your ideas.