My friends and I often talk about how grateful we are that we didn’t have YouTube growing up. Imagine your silliest and most embarrassing moments immortalized on the internet. Phew, we really dodged a bullet.
But as we’re wiping our brows, we’re collectively realizing that we have an even more challenging task ahead: Parenting children in the age of social media.
Do you remember how much you thought you knew (and were wrong about) as a teenager? Well, today’s teens have a whole lot more to be wrong about – and a little misinformation can have a serious impact on their lives.
This is why it’s important to talk to your teens about social media safety and responsibility. Here are a few tips for having the social media talk.
1. Know your strengths
You don’t have to know the ins and outs of every social media platform to be able to have this conversation. But here’s a tip: Don’t pretend to know everything either.
If you pretend you know everything about social media and you don’t, the rest of your message will seem insincere. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses, but stand firm on your safety precautions.
2. Get informed
We’ve established that you don’t need to be an expert. Still, you should understand the basics of social platforms. If you aren’t on any personally, I suggest setting up a Facebook account at a minimum. This way, you can get a feel for how people interact with each other online.
3. Come up with a game plan
Every family should have some rules in place to protect children from the potential dangers of social media. Now is the time to decide how closely you’ll monitor your teen’s social profiles. There are some popular programs that will help you monitor what your child is doing online. These include NetNanny, PureSight PC and others.
Before you talk to your child, you’ll want to be clear on the ground rules. Here are some examples:
- No communication with strangers
- Don’t accept a connection with someone you don’t know in real life (regardless of how many mutual friends you may have)
- Be nice: Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face
- Report any inappropriate behavior
4. Explain the rules
Let your teen know that your rules are non-negotiable. If they are broken, your teen may lose social media privileges. If you’re going to be monitoring their usage with a program, it’s a good idea to let them know this now. If they find out after the fact, it may have a negative impact on your relationship.
5. Talk about lasting consequences
Imagine all the ways you’d be embarrassed right now if you had social media when you were a teen. This is the exact sentiment you need to communicate with your teen.
Kids need to understand that the things they think are cool now may be super cringe-worthy in a decade. And if they need proof, show them photo evidence of that color-block vest you wore in the 90s.
It’s also not just about what you personally put online either. It’s about how you conduct yourself. If you act like a fool at a party and someone gets it on video, it may go up online without your consent. This is why it’s more vital than ever to show respect for yourself and others.
Social media can influence teen drug abuse, induce depression or provide a platform for cyberbullying, so these conversations are crucial.
Social media has some major advantages, but it also has some disadvantages. Talk to your kids to help them understand how to navigate life online without experiencing any of the major pitfalls.