It’s true, with so much information available at the click of a button and easily accessed in the comforts of your home, it’s easy to see how this wealth of knowledge can also be very dangerous. Throw in immature children and unsupervised internet surfing and you can end up with a recipe for disaster.
What is a parent to do when everyone in the world is on Facebook (apparently with the exception of your daughter)?
Here are a few tips to heed when the pressures of social media come calling and how to thwart the adolescent angst and keep the peace at home:
- Age: And of course this is always taken with a bit of caution, though Facebook states that their members need to be 13 to officially open an account, certainly a tech-savvy ten-year-old can finagle their way in and into the cyber sphere in a matter of minutes. But a good rule of thumb would be to know your child; some middle-school aged kids are very mature and responsible whereas there are teens and young adults who could use a few lessons on social etiquette. Before you begin the process, sit down with your child and discuss how they would feel if something they said (or was said about them) were to suddenly appear before them and 500 of their schoolmates. Bring up a situation and then ask for their response, (what if you wrote something you heard but it turns out it was untrue? How would you feel? How do you suppose they would feel?). Conversations before something happens could give your child a moment of pause before they keyboard something in haste and learn to regret it later. At the very least, one good rule of thumb is in order to have a Facebook account they have to ‘friend’ you. They’ll be less likely to share anything too inappropriate if they know mom or dad is also reading through their comments.
- Social Media Options: Of course, one of the most popular social media sites is Facebook, but another one to consider is Instagram. Again, it is easy to open an account and with young people it is extremely popular. No hassles, or frills, simply sharing personal photos in an instant. As a parent it would behoove you again to ensure that if this is an option for your child that you use privacy settings that way when she shares photos it is only with her friends, however, this begs an additional question: Who exactly are your friends?
- Be Discerning: Of course, we all want to protect our children and family from those who would potentially cause harm, but is there a way to really know everyone one of those so-called friends your son shares photos and personal information with? Does there seem to be someone who seems to spend an inordinate amount of time with your son online, someone not from his close circle of friends, or worse, from out of state? What about his online gaming time, does he play with people he doesn’t know? If a particular person seems a little too interested in your child, one way to alleviate any worries would be to do a quick search online. A site like www.peoplesmart.com can do a quick and lost-cost search to find out if BryanW2255 is really a fifteen-year-old from Snoqualmie, WA and when to make a call to authorities if things don’t seem on the up and up.
At the end of the day, good or bad, social media is here to stay. But if you are a diligent parent, the good news is that sites like Facebook can actually be a great tool to use for keeping in touch with family members but is also effective when restrictions are put in place to help bring up low grades or missed curfews. Certainly for a social butterfly teenager, the thought of a weekend without gabbing with friends online might be a great future deterrence. When raising kids, finding their currency is the key to success, reward them for their successes but keep a wary eye when they may need a little re-evaluation.