A big part of raising this generation of children is figuring out what role technology plays in their lives. Kids are surrounded by social media to interact with friends and other people. As parents, it’s important to have a conversation with your child about using good judgment and staying safe when using these tools. Here are some important topics to discuss with your child about using social media, and the internet, safely:
1. Set up strict boundaries: It’s up to you as a parent to decide what age is appropriate to open a social media account for your child. When you do, it’s best to discuss the importance of not sharing or posting any personal information on their account. Signing up with a username, not their real name, and setting strict privacy settings is the best option for most people and especially minors. Depending on their age, or your concerns, you may also want to set a boundary where you have access to the account to start in order to monitor their use. Then gradually pull back as you feel more comfortable.
2. The internet is permanent: People seem to forget this and don’t think carefully before they post. Talk to your child about the repercussions and give examples of bad posts so they understand. Everything you share is tied to you now and 10 years from now. Many companies nowadays will conduct a search online and look at social media accounts before hiring someone. Stress the importance of taking a moment to ask themselves that if it’s not something they’d want their future boss to see, then they should probably not post it.
3. Stranger danger: Make this a rule for their safety. If someone they don’t know messages them online, don’t respond. If they ask for personal information, show your child how to block accounts. Social media makes it even easier nowadays for predators to connect with children so it’s important your child understands the risks and protects themselves.
4. Filters and filtering: Explain to your child that social media is not an accurate representation of people’s lives. People have the control to filter what they post so they tend to show the best days or parts of their lives and post photos of themselves edited with filters. As your child grows up in this digital world, it’s hard not to compare themselves to the images they see and think what they see online is real. We as adults can be guilty of doing this too!
Start with these conversations about social media and try to lead by example on your accounts. Set privacy settings on your accounts. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss seeing. Don’t add anyone that you don’t know on your accounts. Even try taking a selfie without filters!
Julie Diamond is a certified teacher in Canada and the founder of Teachers to Go.
Julie Diamond speaking at the OISE conference for Alternative, Innovative and Inspiring Career Paths for Teachers at the University of Toronto.
Jenna Srigley is the administrative assistant at Teachers to Go and offers invaluable insight as a mom of 2 teens.