Social media has become an integral part of our lives and offers a great way to stay connected with friends, family and peers. Today, almost every tween has a social media profile and checks her profile several times a day.
I’d be the first to admit that there are plenty of advantages. However, social media is not without its risks and dangers. The thing is, in their excitement over being connected, tweens may not always make the best choices while posting status messages or photos online. This can open up a perpetual can of worms.
How can your tween enjoy social media and stay safe in the process?
As parents, we are responsible for our children’s safety. While social media helps children connect and interact with their friends and share ideas, on the flip side the danger of cyberbullying looms large. Unintentional and innocent sharing of personal information can make them the target for unscrupulous predators online, waiting to harm them.
Above all, too much time on social media can sometimes be depressing when someone posts a rude comment, or give rise to a feeling of envy and lowered self-esteem over other people’s posts and pictures.
Is there a solution?
Of course there is. Stop using social media.
Okay! I was kidding!
Start by being aware of your tween’s activities online, in such a way that your child feels that you are respecting her privacy and are concerned about her safety. Being controlling can upset the trust between you.
Here are some rules of thumb to put on your social media agreement with your tween:
- Always be courteous and polite. Being mean is unacceptable online just as it is offline. Never post nasty, hurtful or embarrassing comments. Let him inform you right away if someone harasses or bullies him.
- Pause before posting. She must understand that people can use what she says against her. She has to be careful about what she writes. Let her know that she must never post personal information such as her address, her current location, her date of birth, her phone number and other sensitive info, because this can attract burglars and bullies.
- Don’t share anything that they wouldn’t want their teachers and future employers to see. That includes their grandma. Once posted, they cannot take it back and the information can literally be shared across the world.
- Use privacy settings. Browse the privacy settings on their social media profile together and tweak it to keep them safe. Help them set secure, strong passwords and advise them never to share it with anyone, even their BFFs. Explain why.
- Stay away from strangers. This is a basic rule for all children, but especially so when it comes to online interactions. If they don’t know someone, they should ignore them.
- Agree on when he should not use social media or text. This includes family dinners, family get-togethers, bedtime, during class and driving.
- Do not hesitate to talk about any problems online. It is normal for a tween to hesitate to do so or hide problems for fear of punishment. Make sure your tween knows that you are there for her when she needs you, and can turn to you at any time.
- Get to know how the technology works. Familiarize yourself with the social media network where your tween has a profile. To join Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, children must be 13 years old . The”Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act,” prohibits companies from collecting personal information about kids under 13.
- Create your profile on the sites where your tween has a profile. Connect with her on the platform. Let her know that you are keeping tabs on her and do not post embarrassing messages on her timeline.
- Encourage him to talk to you about what is happening. Be transparent when you want to check chat logs, emails and social media profiles, images and messages.
- Don’t discourage social media use. Instead, help your tween use it responsibly and safely.
- Place the computer where you can see your tween using it.
- Educate her about sexting and bullying and the consequences of this.
- Monitor your tween’s social media use regularly. It is a good idea to keep track of what he is doing on the internet. Consider using parental controls.
- Discuss time limits for using the internet and cell phone.
- Watch out for warning signs of problems, including skipping homework, meal times and other activities for social media, weight loss, weight gain, cranky behavior, and the biggie: drop in grades.
- Set a good example through your own social media behavior.
- If you see your tween stress over “likes” and “views” and “retweets”, you know it is time to step in.
As mom to an 18-year-old, I cannot repeat this enough – nurture an atmosphere of easy communication at home. It is not unusual for a tween to set up an alternate account different from the one where she’s “friends” with her parents. If her timeline doesn’t show much activity, but you know she spends time on social media, you have no choice but to monitor her online time more closely.
The internet is constantly evolving and keeping your tween safe can be challenging. Talk to them today about social media safety.