The thought of your child starting their own social media account can be terrifying to say the least. From cyberbullying to online predators, it seems like the dangers for children online are endless. But here’s the thing, it’s not social media itself that’s dangerous, it’s the manner in which it is used.
Social media can bring a lot of positives to you and your child’s life. You can stay connected with friends and family, build your own personal brand, learn about volunteer or job opportunities, connect with people who have shared interests and learn about almost anything! We don’t believe that these benefits of social media should be missed out, but we do understand the dangers of your child posting too much information about themselves online.
The growth and development of various social media platforms and seeing how individuals are able to build their careers off these platforms might give the wrong impression to the younger generation. Kids these days are aspiring to be the next TikTok star, social media influencer, or even a famous twitch streamer. But as their parents, we understand how important it is to you to educate them early to ensure they know to keep sensitive information private and off the web.
What can you do?
As a parent, you may not be able to stop your child from starting an account on a social media platform, but what you can do is to educate them on what they shouldn’t be posting and why. The key is building trust and respect while also making sure that they’re being safe online. Like with other aspects of their lives, they should learn to share with you anything that doesn’t feel right in their social media life.
Here are five essential things you should teach your kids about social media.
1. Nothing is private
Making your social media account private is a smart way to increase their privacy level but it doesn’t mean that everything on there won’t be shared by others. It only takes one person to screenshot a photo or comment for it to blow up everywhere. Be mindful of what they share on social media even if their accounts are set to be private.
2. Think twice before you hit “enter”
Once you post something, it’s there forever. Your child might think that it’s not a big deal what they post online because they can just delete it off their accounts later if they want but you know that isn’t always true. As their parent or guardian, you have to let them know that once it’s online, it has the potential to be floating around the web forever.
Unfortunately, now, everything that you say or do online can be held against you for the rest of your life. Whether it’s an embarrassing photo or a comment that you made on a video, it can come back years after you’d forgotten you even posted it.
3. Words can hurt
We all know that bullying is a big problem in the real world and social media can add to that by giving people another channel, one that is accessible 24/7. Saying hurtful things behind a screen can be a lot easier for some than saying or doing it in person so it’s important your kids understand the impacts on both the person on the receiving end and the bully themselves. The age old “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” should be applied to social media. Take it one step further though and encourage your kids to say the nice thing.
There will always be an online troll trying to instigate a fight or argument but knowing to not fuel the fire is smarter than replying just to fight back or defend your stance.
4. Location tracking can be used against you
Not everyone needs to know your child’s exact location and who they’re with at all times. Often on mobile apps and devices, the default setting is to have the location tracking on, but showing your child how to turn this off or where it is appropriate to use it can be very beneficial to them knowing what is safe to share and what should be kept private.
Take the time to walk your kids through the pros and cons of location tracking, this can help them understand it better as well as help them make these decisions on their own in the future.
5. Don’t “friend” strangers
It’s so easy to meet people online now through social media or online games and other platforms. But there are also strangers that might add your child without even knowing them. Let your children know that if they don’t know them, don’t accept. This is a plain and simple rule of thumb.
Once they are connected online, the privacy settings no longer apply and they’ll have more access to their private information.
So… they’ve already been online for several years
It’s never too late to sit down and discuss online safety with your children. Social media platforms are constantly evolving and changing but teaching your children the basic foundation of how to be safe online is key to them being more aware moving forward.
If you’re worried about what they’ve posted in the past, you can sit down with them and use a social media cleaner like LifeBrand.
Using a tool like LifeBrand will flag posts that could be potentially harmful to your child now or into the future. Once our software has flagged the posts, take the time to discuss why each of these posts could affect their future and how they can be more proactive to what they post online moving forward. And then simply hit delete!
Now, what are you waiting for? Spend some time with your kids and their device to help them understand the importance of online safety.