For kids and teens, social media is an essential part of their lives, much the way telephones were important to us at their age.
There are plenty of advantages to social media — but also many potential dangers and issues you want your little ones to avoid. They don’t always make the smartest choices when they post something on sites like Facebook or YouTube, and sometimes this can lead to problems.
It’s important to be aware of what your kids are doing online, but too much prying can alienate them and damage the trust you’ve built. The key is to stay involved in a way that makes your kids understand that you respect their privacy but want to make sure they’re safe.
Stalking is definitely not recommended. You can ask your child to be friends on social networks, but don’t insist on it. Most teenagers don’t want their parents seeing the content they share on social networks, and it is not strictly because they have something to hide, but simply because they are trying to grow up and they feel ashamed around other ‘obvious’ adults – especially parents. If your teens let you friend or follow them, stay in the background (don’t comment or “like” their posts unless they want you to). Also, make sure to address anything important face to face. Just the way it is advised not to discipline your children in public, you also shouldn’t criticize their pages in front of their friends.
A good idea is to lay down the rules for using technology from the beginning (when and how they are allowed to use it and specific punishments if they break the rules). This is particularly important when it comes to using social networks. Teach your kids the golden ‘Grandma Rule’ – Never post or ‘snap’ anything that you wouldn’t want your grandma to see.
If you still think there is a need to ban your child from using certain contents on the Internet, you can block the websites that you want to keep your child away from. Most browsers have “Approved Sites” tab, where you can manage website blocking.
In many ways, teens are probably the most sensitive internet users. The moment your teen moves out is probably the moment when you will want to stalk them most. Growing up is an intense process and pain is essential for the emotional leap from childhood to adulthood. It is probably a better idea not to see your children at their worse, whether it is because of too much alcohol or too little happiness. We also have to learn to let them go in a way – it is good for both children and parents.
Yet, when it comes to kids, it is wise to arrange a more controlled setting: keep computers in public areas in the house, avoid laptops and smartphones in bedrooms, and set rules on the use of technology (no cell phones at the dinner table, etc). Setting a good example through your own virtual behavior can go a long way toward helping your kids use social media safely.