Teaching Kids to Be Smart About Social Media
All teens use some form of social media (like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat) and have profiles on these social networking sites. Many children visit these sites every day.
Social media, like any other platform, has many good things, but also many risks and things that children and teenagers should avoid. They do not always make rational decisions when posting on or about various topics over social media, and this can sometimes lead to problems.
So, it is especially important for us as parents to talk to our children about how to use social media sites wisely!
What is good about social networks?
Social networks can help children:
- stay connected with friends and family
- volunteer or join a campaign, non-profit or charitable organization
- sharing ideas, music and art thereby enhancing creativity
- get to know and interact with others sharing similar interests
- communicate with teachers and classmates
What is wrong with social media?
On the other side, social media can be a hotbed for things like cyberbullying and questionable activity. Without meaning to, children may share more online than they should.
- post their photos online or use their real names on their profiles
- reveal your dates of birth and interests
- publish the name of their school and the city where they live
This can make them an easy target for online predators and others who might harm them. In fact, many children say they have:
- have been contacted online by someone they did not know in a way that made them feel afraid or uncomfortable
- viewed online ads that was age inappropriate
- lied about their age to gain access to websites
Concerns and consequences
In addition to issues such as cyberbullying and online predators, children may also face the possibility of physically meeting the wrong person. Many newer apps will automatically detect the location of the poster when you use it. With this anyone can exactly find the location of the person using the app.
And photos, videos and comments taken online usually cannot be taken back once posted. Even if a teen thinks something has been deleted, it may be impossible to completely erase it from the internet.
Posting an inappropriate photo can damage a reputation and cause problems years down the line—for example, when a potential employer or college admissions officer is doing a background check. And sending a mean text, even as a joke, can be very hurtful and even taken as a threat by someone else.
Spending too much time on social media can also be overwhelming. Seeing how many “friends” others have and pictures of them having fun can make kids feel bad about themselves or like they do not measure up to their peers.
What can parents do?
It is important to know what your children are doing online. But snooping can alienate them and damage the trust you have built together. The key is to stay involved so that your kids understand that you respect their privacy but want to make sure they are safe.
Tell your children that it is important to:
- Be nice
Average behaviour is not okay. Make it clear that you expect your children to treat others with respect and never send hurtful or embarrassing messages. Also ask them to be open with you and to tell you about any harassing or bullying messages others post about them.
- Think twice before pressing “enter”
Remind your children that whatever they post on social media can be used against them. For example, if you let the world know you are on vacation or post your home address, potential burglars have a chance to strike. Teens should also avoid posting specific locations of parties or events, as well as phone numbers.
- Follow the “WWGS?” (What would grandma say to that?) rule
Teach kids not to share anything on social media that they do not want their teachers, admissions officers, future bosses—and yes, grandma—to see.
- Use privacy settings
Privacy settings are important. View and take them through such settings together with you, to make sure that children understand such settings. Also explain that passwords are there to protect them from things like identity theft. They should never share them with anyone, not even best friend.
- Don’t make friends with strangers
“If you don’t know them, don’t make enemies with them.” This is a simple, easy, and safe rule.
- Make a contract
Consider making a “social media pact” with your kids. In it, they undertake to protect their own privacy, consider their reputation, and not provide personal data. They also promise not to use technology to hurt someone else through bullying or slander.
Parents, in turn, agree to respect the teens’ privacy while trying to be a part of the social media world. This means you can “friend” them and observe them, but don’t send them embarrassing comments or pictures from their childhood.
Parents can also help keep children grounded in the real world by limiting media use. Keep computers out of public areas of the house, avoid laptops and smartphones in bedrooms, and set some rules for technology use (e.g., no
devices at the dinner table).
And always remember: You can help your children use social media safely, by setting a good example with your own virtual behaviour.
At CGR International School, we organize special awareness sessions and drives with children to inform them about the pros and cons of social media, including what to do and what to avoid on such platforms. Children can contact our faculties at any time if they need help or advice with anything, including social media.