Social media is here to stay and parents need to get on board. Apps such as such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, ooVoo, WeChat, Vine and KakaoTalk are more popular then ever among young users ages 11 to 17.
Children and Teenagers utilize social media to stay connected, communicate with friends, complete school assignments and stay informed. I have read some pretty scathing articles about how children should stay away from social media and I just don’t agree. I believe that with the right preparation, education and supervision, social media apps can be beneficial for young users.
Here are a few rules for parents who are ready to take the social media plunge with their children.
RULE #1: ASK QUESTIONS
“What are my expectations? What are my child’s expectations? How do I think my child is going to use social media? These are questions parents should ask themselves, discuss with their spouse, and then discuss with their children.
RULE #2: GET INFORMED
Do your homework. It is the parent’s responsibility to learn about the social media apps as well as learn how to use them. Parents should not allow their children to use social media apps, unless you know to use it yourself. Go online and ready all you can about these apps, but don’t let some of the articles scare you. Your children, whether it is now or in the future will use these apps. This is the time when you can teach them how to use them correctly and appropriately.
RULE #3: CONTACTS
As a general rule, parents should know EVERY CONTACT on their child’s device. Parents need to be aware of who their children are texting. This goes for social media apps as well. If there is not a name (or username) that you recognize, ask your child who this person is, where do they go to school, how do they know this person, what grade are they in, etc. The first day you set up an account for your child, parents should follow their child’s account, until trust is established.
RULE #4: SET SCHEDULE AND EXCHANGE PASSWORDS
Parents should have usernames AND passwords for their children’s accounts. There should also be rules set for days/times when social media is allowed. This is set by the parents and should not be broken. Example: No social media during homework time or dinnertime. No social media after 9:00 pm on a school night. Or devices must be turned in daily after school. Is it okay for your child to be on social media when at a friend’s house?? Whatever the rules will be, set them, WRITE THEM DOWN, and be firm when enforcing them.
RULE #5: SET THE BOUNDARIES FOR POSTING
Exactly what kind of contact do you as a parent, as well as for your children, regard as inappropriate? Be very specific when discussing this and WRITE DOWN THE RULES if you have to. Example: No selfies, or no selfies below the shoulder. Or no swimsuit selfies, or no selfies or pictures with your younger siblings. Or my personal favorite rule: No pictures/videos of mom or dad.
If your child is texting someone you do not know, or the other person is texting something inappropriate, block them. (You should have learned how to block contacts when you completed Rule #2 get informed.)
RULE #6: AUDITING & SUPERVISION
Just like all other aspects of parenting, children should be allowed freedoms in order to learn and gain trust and responsibility. This does not mean we give them that trust blindly. You wouldn’t give the keys to your car to a newly licensed teen driver and allow them to have free reign would you?? No. Social media is no different.
Start off slow. Allow your child to use social media while you are next to them. These first few months should be supervised ALL THE TIME. Once they show you they can follow your rules and boundaries, give them a little more freedom, BUT ALWAYS AUDIT YOUR CHILD’S SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNT.
Random audits are my favorite. Parents should be looking through pictures and other posts, AS WELL AS their child’s contacts posts on social media. Once you begin to trust your child and they show they can use social media wisely and appropriately, audits can become less frequent, but they still need to be done until your child is completely independent (Usually around 17-18 years old)
Typically young adolescents need more parent involvement and monitoring of their social media accounts. Certainly, as your children mature and hit their later years of high school that constant supervision is not typically warranted. However, spot checks are always a good idea even after trust is built and your social media management rules are being followed.
Social media can be your families’ friend, especially if used correctly. It’s a great way to learn more about your kids, their interests, their friends and what is going on in your community. And for parents of soon to be graduates and college aged children, sometimes it may be the only way you can communicate with your child.
Author: Andrew R. Staffier, LCSW, MHA