Does your toddler have a Twitter account?
Let’s face it, when it comes to social media, for kids and family, most parents are in uncharted territory. It’s not something we can think back to our own childhood and either emulate (or reject) the approach our own parents took—this just wasn’t a thing when today’s parents were young.
So what can parents do to manage their children’s social media use? Here are some tips.
Be mindful of age restrictions
Social media sites have age restrictions for a reason. Your child might want to set up an account before he or she is old enough… but don’t allow it or help them do so. Children simply don’t need social media accounts in elementary school.
Talk about safe social media use… before kids open an account
Talking about social media use is like talking about sex… you need to address it before your kids are doing it. Just like you need to talk to your kids about the joys and risks involved in sex, you need to talk to them about the joys and risks related to social media—and how to mitigate those risks through safe use. When you’re discussing social media, make sure to address privacy settings, cyberbullying and the permanence of our digital lives.
Know your child’s friends, online and offline
Your child probably doesn’t want you to see what he or she is doing online—but you should follow them anyway. You need to know what kind of things your child is doing in his or her digital life in order to tailor your “social media ed” curriculum appropriately.
Follow your child… and his or her close friends
If you see something you don’t like, use it as a teaching moment instead of just insisting that your kid delete the post or tweet. Discuss what about the post you find problematic, whether it’s the privacy settings or the content.
Lead by example
Now might be the time to examine your own social media habits. Expect that your kids might follow you, too—and you want to be sure to use social media in the same way that you tell your kids they should be using it. This includes limiting your social media use and overall screen time to an amount you would consider appropriate for your kids to emulate.
Make time for real life
Social media is fun and addicting, but it’s important that you make time for real life, both for yourself and your child. Don’t use your phone or computer at mealtimes or right before bed. Don’t interrupt conversations to look at your Facebook feed or respond to a ping. Impose limits on your children’s use, too—but those limits should be enforced for all members of the family, not just the kids.
In the modern world, learning how to use social media safely and effectively is just as important as learning how to drink alcohol responsibly. Used judiciously, in the appropriate circumstances and for the right reasons, social media can be fun, can facilitate connections between people and can even help further your kid’s career. But safe, smart social media use is also essential—and it’s up to you to teach your kids what that means.