Social Media. Those are two small words that hold a lot of meaning and power in this day and age.
For as lucky as I think that our children (and we as parents) are to be able to experience the digital age and all that it has to offer, there can be some definite cons to this.
When I was growing up being social meant: going to your friend’s house to listen to music, playing board games, riding bikes, watching movies, attending bingo nights, dances (and various other school and community functions), playing sports, and just running around with your friends in the fresh air! (Wow do I miss those days…)
The times have changed drastically for our children as being social now seems to mean: texting, email, instagram, snapchat, playing video games via Xbox Live, minecraft, and playing on iPod touches, iPad’s and ianything else electronic!
Now don’t get me wrong I am all for social media, and in fact I am probably one of it’s biggest users and proponents, but in the wrong “hands” social media can be dangerous. If social media is used for it’s intended purpose – to learn, share, connect, provide and receive information, it can be instrumental in your life.
I think that our children, prior to using any form of social media, should be “taught” how to use it properly. Much like we teach our children lessons in life, how to tie their shoes, ride a bike, drive a car, etc., something like social media which can hold so much power should also be taught, or how else can we expect them to know the potential dangers of using it?
Here a just a few tips to try to keep your children safe when they are participating in the use of social media:
1. Keep open lines of communication and monitor their online, email and text activity.
– Let your kids know up front that you will be monitoring their online activity and will have access to their electronic devices at any time that you feel is necessary.
2. If you have allowed your child to have an Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, or any other social media account, please make sure that their account is set to private. Be sure to “friend” or “follow” your child’s account on any of these social media channels. There are no “filters” that are placed on theses sites, therefore what your child may see or read can range from rated G to rated R.
3. Email and text messaging are great tools for kids to use, (especially when taught how to be used properly).
– My son’s 3rd grade teacher was awesome because she taught him about technology and the proper use of it. She encouraged the use of email and text, but in the correct way, therefore I have also encouraged it.
– One of the most important lessons that I have learned about teaching kids how to use email and text messaging, is to explain to them the importance of using the correct form of the English language, (no acronyms, abbreviations, cyber shorthand, chat jargon, and remember that punctuation is our friend). How can we teach our kids to speak and write properly at all times, important tools that they will always need in life, if we allow them to adopt their own form of language when emailing and text messaging?
– Explain to your child that group text messaging, especially for children, can often turn into an electronic form of whisper down the lane. If your child would like to use text messaging I would encourage, especially when they are younger, to text message a person one-on-one, not a group of people.
4. One of the most important things that I have taught my son is that whatever you write, say or do online is always being monitored (may not always be by me, but tracked within cyberspace). Even if it is something that has been deleted, it can be recovered! I have talked with kids before who think that just because they may have deleted something or cleared their online browser history that i can’t be recovered. Please inform your child that I mostly can and will be recovered if necessary. Everything you do online leaves a cyber-footprint (shows exactly where you were and what you did).
– Cyberbullies beware!
5. Speaking of online browsers, there are some internet browser options that you can download for your child to use, if you would not like them to just have full access to the internet: 5 Kid-Friendly Internet Browsers
I think that the internet and the digital age itself are amazing. I have no clue how I would get by as parent in this day and age without google! I think that the internet and various electronics are great for kids to use, but they are even better and more productive when children are taught how to use them in the correct and appropriate manner. Those lessons should be first taught at home, although I also think that schools should start incorporating some sort of social media class/ lesson into their teachings.
I hope that you have found this post to be useful. Please feel free to comment or contact me with any questions or tips that you may have concerning the safety of our children online.
Happy and Safe Web Surfing!