While this is an extensive topic, with loads of opinions on the matter, I have attempted to put together a few key tips for parents trying to navigate the social media waters.
Continued dialog with your kids is critical. Show them you are interested and as they get older, don’t shy away from bringing up challenging issues like sexting, pornography, and cyberbullying. Of course, those things can be embarrassing for you and your child, but you’ll both benefit from the open and real conversations. Your communication with your child doesn’t stop there though.
Privacy settings on most social networking sites are available so that you and your child can choose who can see their posts and comment. Depending on their age, it’s generally recommended that kids keep their privacy settings to friends only.
Use safe settings on all mobile devices but be aware that if your child is accessing the internet using public WiFi, filters to block inappropriate content may not be active. Some outlets, like McDonald’s, are part of family-friendly WiFi schemes so look out for Mumsnet Family Friendly WiFi and RDI Friendly WiFi symbols when you’re out and about.
Talk to your kids about respecting others and how important it is especially on public platforms. Ask them to reflect on how they would feel if that comment was made on one of their posts. Encourage high self-esteem in your kids – they will pass it on! Talk about online reputation. Remind them frequently that anything they post could stay around forever online. Encourage them to only do things online that they wouldn’t mind you, their teachers, their grandparents, and even future employers seeing. Creating a positive digital footprint is vital in today’s world.
Give them trust. Give them boundaries and expect them to follow them. This can apply to screen time, downloads, sites they visit, etc. Of course, if they break that trust then boundaries need to be scaled back and supervision put into place until they can regain that trust. Contact interaction is key.
Remind them how important it is not to give in to peer pressure to send inappropriate comments or images. Show them options available to them such as the Send this instead and Zipit apps which will help them deal with requests that make them uncomfortable.
You should plan on constant interactions with your child. All of these dangers and problem areas we’ve discussed need to be out in the open and exposed. Talk about how we are to treat others, how we need to have daily screen time limits, prioritizing your time, etc. We can dramatically deflate the power of the negative impacts of social media by being aware of them!
APPENDIX: PLATFORMS 101
It can be difficult for us as parents to keep up with the ever-evolving trends and platforms. I highly recommend getting every platform that your kids have. At the very least, become familiar with them and their differences. Here’s a brief low-down:
Founded in 2004, this is the OG of social media, and it’s still ranking #1 in the SMP (Social Media Platform) world. This bit of news is shocking to me, I feel like Facebook has always been around! It’s younger than my youngest daughter.
Facebook is the most volatile platform, in my mind. People rant and rave, often using way too many CAPS in their posts. The Facebook Marketplace is a very popular way for people to sell their crap to their neighbors, making the garage sale all buy extinct. There is a myriad of interest groups and boards to be a part of. Facebook Live offers live video streaming as well. Facebook is used by businesses and advertisers alike to engage customers. The age for Facebook users is generally college-age and older. Posts are shared among friends and friends of friends or the general public, all depending on your privacy settings
It’s called a microblogging platform, and it’s been around almost as long as Facebook, founded in 2006. It’s a much more public platform, with character limits to your posts. Hashtags provide ways for followers to see content that interests them and stay up on the latest trends. It’s is fast-paced, with trending topics changing by the hour. GIFs and videos are popular in Twitter posts. Generally, kids start getting in on the Twittersphere around High School age.
Instagram is a visually based photo and video sharing platform, which encourages creativity. Followers can post comments on pictures. Users can add hashtags and captions to their posts, allowing for trends, as in Twitter. This is where the influencer was created and still thrives. Stories are more temporary posts, that disappear after a day. Advertisements can look exactly the same as “real” posts and appear in your feed and stories along with everything else.
One thing that cannot be added to posts is a link. Users can have one link in their profile description. This is a popular platform for high school and college kids.
Snapchat is for living in the moment, according to their own description of the app. Users take pictures and apply filters and comments drawn onto the picture. They are sent to friends (they disappear after being viewed) or added to your story, which disappears after a day. The Snap Map shows the location of all of your friends, which is a popular way for kids to keep track of each other’s locations. Streaks are kept when you send at least one picture a day back and forth between other users.
TikTok is relatively new and has been in the news recently, even becoming a part of the 2020 election campaigns. It’s a highly addictive platform where people post 30-second videos. Once a video catches on, it can go “viral” overnight, capturing millions of views. People gain followers and continue to post, becoming “TikTok famous.” It’s highly political and opinionated, with an equal dose of comedy. Beware, you will waste hours and not even realize what just happened.
These platforms are ever-changing. There are so many more. You can google them to get an idea of purpose and audience demographics:
I have always loved to write. Over the years I've put my thoughts, experiences and opinions on paper. Some of these posts are old and some are new.