Admirable attempts by fellow adults have been made to teach developing minds about the dangerous side of social media. For our kids, who daily seek approval and attention from anyone, social media is all too tempting of an outlet. And if your child has a smartphone, they’re on social media.
If you have or know a child, start teaching them how to use social media:
- Show kids how and what you share on social. We’re staring and jabbing at our smartphones each day… Yes, our children are watching and know it must surely be an amazing gadget. Use that rapt attention to let them lean in and watch you compose a post or share a photo on Facebook. Let them make suggestions and guide their choices.
- Strangers are online just as they are in real life. Show your child that the person who just liked your photo on Instagram is someone you’ve never met before. Stranger-danger is just as risky online as in real-life; perhaps more so since kids often share too much information with strangers. If you are on social platforms where you often decline requests by strangers to connect, show your child where and explain why.
- Mean words hurt just as much. If you’ve been on the receiving end of a less-than-friendly comment, show it to your child. Talk about how it felt to read it. Explain that there is always a real person reacting to every word you post online. Let them watch you compose a comment on someone else’s profile and see how carefully you choose your words. Louis C.K. has a great commentary on why online messages can be so hurtful (not safe for children).
- Teach kids how easy it is to save and change content. Find one of your posts and screenshot it. Use a free photo editing tool (most smartphones have one built-in to their camera tool) to crop or adjust the image. Get creative with your manipulation: your goal is to show your kid how easily anyone can grab something on the internet, change it, and re-use it for their own purposes.
- If they’re on social media, install the same apps and follow them. Just as you would check their homework or their clothing choices for a social event with friends, check how your child uses social media. Also, you’re entitled and advised to do unannounced checks of their smartphones (especially if your name is on the bill!). If they’re using a new app, download it and get familiar.
*If you don’t know how to do these things, try them out now. Your child, growing up as a digital native, will most certainly learn if you don’t teach them. Be their first and primary source for best practices.
“Use social media. Don’t be used by it.”
Do what you do best for your child: parent them. Show them how to treat others in real life: how to say “please” and “thank you,” how to hold back their honest opinions about someone’s appearance, and how to treat others as they want to be treated. If you’ve done and are doing that well, showing them the capabilities of social media will provide them with a new tool to be a good person rather than a weapon to be a bad one.
What have you tried and learned as a parental user of social media? Share your own tips below; we can help each other help our kids.
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