More than 70 percent of teens use more than one social network site, with Facebook being the most popular, reports Pew Research Center. Thanks to the advanced cameras on smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S6, Instagram and Snapchat are the next two most popular sites with teens.
Parenting magazine explains that social media benefits teens by giving them access to more information and increasing their sense of self; however, social media channels also pose threats, such as the sharing of information about illegal substances and the spreading of illicit photos online.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents should view the digital world as an environment that’s as meaningful as the physical world their children live in. This means you should talk with your children about social media to ensure they have a safe and enjoyable experience online.
Common Sense Media recommends that you start talking with your children about social media as soon as they go online, which could be as young as preschool age. While young kids aren’t old enough to be on social media sites according to age restrictions, it’s important to instill digital safety principles that they’ll follow once they are on these sites. Explain to your kids that they should not talk to strangers and to only interact with people they know in real life. Let them know that if they’re approached by a stranger online, they should alert you.
Create clear expectations about what information they can share online. Personal details such as their phone number and address should not be posted, but hobbies and interests are OK. Use the network’s privacy settings to ensure it displays the most limited amount of information to the public. Tell your child to avoid contests and giveaways where they need to input personal information to participate.
Once your teens have their own profiles, write a contract together that outlines how they can use the profile. Be sure to include consequences for not using the profile properly. You also may want to include limits on how much time they’re allowed to spend on sites and a limit on how many sites they’re allowed to have profiles on. By involving your children in the process, they’ll be more likely to follow the rules. Examples of what you can include in The Ultimate Parent Guide for Protecting Your Child Online.
Determine Your Involvement
For most teens, social networks provide a place where they can talk about their interests and chat with friends. Most teens want privacy online just like they do in real life. If you want to monitor your teens’ tech usage, services such as NetNanny and My Mobile Watchdog let you see all your children’s communications on their computer and smartphone. You can also stipulate in your social media contract that they’re only allowed to use social media if you have access to their passwords and will conduct random check-ins to ensure they’re complying.
Emphasize that what your child puts online, from negative rants to sexy photos, may live on the Internet forever even if they’re erased. According to the 2015 Social Recruiting Survey by Jobvite, 92 percent of recruiters examine social media sites when they’re considering candidates. What your teens post online now could have a detrimental effect on their career and affect their entire future.
Have regular conversations with your kids about their interactions online and how they’re feeling in those environments. Ask who they’re talking to, what they’re talking about and how their interactions are affecting their self-esteem. If cyberbullying occurs, emphasize you’re an advocate who will help fix the problem. Periodically review your contract, and keep evolving it based on new developments to ensure a strong parent-child social media partnership remains intact.