Parents in today’s world are faced with a unique challenge: teaching their kids how to use social media responsibly. While it can feel daunting and overwhelming, you can take some simple steps to ensure your kids understand how to use social media in a safe and responsible way.
Follow an age-appropriate guideline
Pay attention to the age guidelines for each social media platform. The major networks (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) have specific policies that dictate what age a user must be before they are allowed to create an account. Ensure your kids understand why these guidelines exist and help them make responsible decisions about which platforms they should or shouldn’t use based on their ages.
TikTok, for example, has launched a feature that lets parents set time limits on the app.
Set the example
The most important thing you can do is set a good example. Before you even teach your kids about responsible social media use:
- Ensure they see you using it responsibly.
- Show them what it looks like to interact with others online respectfully and demonstrate the importance of setting boundaries regarding your online presence.
- Explain why privacy settings are necessary and let them see you regularly checking yours.
Have open conversations about it
Don’t lecture your children on what they should or shouldn’t do; have open conversations about it instead. Ask questions and listen to their answers. Make sure they understand why specific rules, such as not sharing personal information or photos without permission, are essential.
Ask them questions like “What do you think would happen if someone posted something inappropriate?” or “How can someone protect their privacy online?” Encourage them to develop solutions for staying safe online and ask for their input on any rules you may have for them regarding social media use.
Be prepared for challenges
Your kids will likely encounter some social media issues — from cyberbullying to privacy breaches. It’s important to remind them they can come to you if something troubling happens. Let them know that you are always there to help and give them advice when they need it.
Ensure they know the proper channels to take if they experience or witness something uncomfortable or unsafe online, such as reporting the issue to a moderator, coming to you for help, or even taking screenshots before deleting it.
Educate them on potential dangers
Talk to kids about cyberbullying, phishing scams, and more so they know what kind of things to look out for a while using these platforms. Explain how dangerous something like catfishing (posing as someone else) can be and why they should never respond to strangers asking for personal information over the internet or through messaging apps.
It’s also a good idea to change the privacy settings in apps and games to make sure children can’t talk to strangers. The more knowledge kids have about potential risks, the better prepared they’ll be if something happens while using social media platforms.
Also, teach them how to enable two-factor authentication on Instagram and other apps so they’re always secure.
When teaching your kids responsible social media use, it’s essential to have clear consequences for inappropriate behavior. Explain the rules you’ve set in advance and make sure your children understand the repercussions if they break them. This could involve anything from having their device taken away to no longer being allowed access to a particular platform. These boundaries will ensure your kids know what is expected of them when using social media.
Know what they are posting
Have regular conversations with your kids about what they’re posting. Ask them to show you what they’ve published recently. Talk to children about how their posts have potential consequences (even if it’s a joke or meme) and encourage them to think twice before hitting the “post” button. As a parent, it’s also worthwhile monitoring the accounts of people your children are following, as this can indicate their online activity and behavior.
Routinely check up on them
Finally, routinely check up on your children to ensure they’re using social media safely and responsibly. Look at their posts and messages occasionally to ensure they’re not engaging in inappropriate behaviors or conversations. You can also monitor who they’re following and friending online and what type of content they’re seeing. Doing this helps keep you aware of any situations that may arise so you can take action quickly if necessary.
By setting an example, having open conversations about responsible social media use, educating your children on potential dangers, and enforcing consequences for inappropriate behavior, you can keep your kids safer on social media.
Marette Flora is the founder of Floradise blog and personalized gift shop. Marette is a passionate storyteller and creator. She attended the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University and obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication.
She is passionate about creating helpful and meaningful things.