Social Media for kids is not an easy discussion.
How to parent them through using apps?
How to guide them in social media etiquette?
How to navigate the very unclear, sticky waters of everything involved in social media?
What are they seeing? What are they searching? What are they learning?
Then, the dreaded questions…
“Mom, can I have instagram?”
“How old do I have to be before I can have a facebook?”
“Can I have this one game? It says FREE!”
“I need pinterest!”
If your kids have access to apps or a computer or any kind of electronic device, you have heard these questions.
One of the scariest things I did as a mom was hand my girls their new iPads.
With selling all of their toys and spending hours upon hours in the car, having some sort of device was an important part of keeping us all sane.
Books, movies, games, music… all in one place for them manage.
But, handing a child an electronic device is so hard. Knowing they are playing apps, downloading, taking pictures, making videos, and have access to the internet is overwhelming.
Wondering how to guide them through social media for kids… feeling the weight of the task.
The horror stories of kids getting caught up in the many, many dangers online is a very strong reason to avoid all devices no matter what.
That isn’t realistic or even the right approach.
Social media for kids
The reality of their lives will be lived out in an electronic world. Their jobs, their school, their social lives will be online. Hiding our heads in the sand isn’t going to make the horror go away nor is it going to teach our kids how to navigate technology in healthy, safe ways.
That is our job as parents. And we can not take that job lightly. ever.
There are hundreds of posts out there to talk about internet safety and social media for kids.
There are even posts that speak directly to one specific app or another. Apps like SnapChat…
I encourage you to get on Google and study, read, research. That is the first thing you MUST do to parent through apps and social media.
Get up-to-date on the ins and outs of what kids are doing online in social media and on their apps.
Yes, do your research. But… you must keep in mind that once your research is done, your job isn’t over.
You can not let go and forget about it.
Partly because apps continue to morph, settings change and capabilities grow.
Mostly because as you say yes to an app and allow your child to get that app, it doesn’t mean you are in the free and clear to forget about it and move on.
As a parent, it would be so much easier to just set the security settings on the device and then let them go to town.
The problem is that, even with security settings, your child can find terrible junk and get into some nasty things without even realizing the danger.
The dangers are real in social media for kids and we need to parent through it.
So the second thing you MUST do, is walk through each app/website with your kids.
How do you do that?
Social Media for Kids
1. Have access to their device. Know their passwords, codes, pins… you need to be diligent to monitor their activity… they need to know you are holding them accountable. That means you must actually check up on them. Have conversations about what they are doing well online and what they are not doing well. How are they communicating through email? Are they using manners via texting? Are they posting personal information? These are all things you have to check. over and over.
2. Set rules. What are they allowed to do without permission? What do they need to ask permissions for? Where can they go? Can they follow links, click on ads, accept friends, what kinds of friends? people they know or not? boys? girls?… the options are numerous. Have a plan. Set rules.
3. Help them obey internet manners. If there is an age limit, follow it. Staying age appropriate teaches patience and honesty. Once they can have a social media outlet, teach your kids what kinds of things to post, how to tag, what to respond to… For example, I got a chain letter forward from my daughter in my email. That prompted a whole discussion about forwards, why they are annoying, how they can contain viruses, how they forward not just her information to others but she is forwarding other people’s information on as well… and so on. She had no idea! It is our job to inform them. For everyone’s safety!
4. Just because other kids have that app doesn’t mean it is right for your kids! Help them understand the whys. For example, for us Snapchat is a no. There is no accountability because things disappear so quickly. Snapchat also has terrible guidelines for what they can do with your kid’s pictures! How? Well, they may delete from your child’s device but they don’t delete from Snapchat’s database! That means they may show up somewhere online someday!
5. Sit down and experience the app with them. That means look at the game. Watch them play. If it is a social media app like Instagram or Facebook or Twitter, talk through what each button means, what they can search, who they can follow, is their map turned on, who is following them, how to post or tweet, what kinds of pictures are acceptable, how much should they post… talking these things through just helps build good internet sense and will help your kids fully understand the app before they begin using it.
6. Let them ask questions about how things work. They will have questions. And, if they don’t know, it will be easier for them to find trouble unknowingly. By letting them ask questions, you create a time of healthy dialogue, you show that you care about them and their interests, and you allow them to have a voice. In the process, they may teach you a thing or two!
7. Listen to them while they play online apps or games with other kids. You will quickly hear things that you didn’t know about certain apps or games. Those are things you can easily work into conversations at a later time. We were able to catch something in a game we didn’t know while our girls were playing that game with other kids!
8. Read things back to them. If they answered a text or email incorrectly, read it out loud for them. (not in a mean way! Just so they can hear it in someone’s voice. They will quickly hear why it sounded mean or hurtful). Then, walk them through what they could have said. Doing this a few times will go a long way in teaching them how to handle social media.
9. Preach internet access as a privilege. They do NOT have to be online! Make sure they know the value of your trust and hold them accountable if they break that trust.
10. Stress privacy. As a generation growing up with blogging/tweeting/facebooking moms, these kids don’t really understand privacy or personal space like we did when we were kids. They’ve had their lives plastered online for them literally since they were babies. Not necessarily a bad thing, but we need to make sure they know what information is appropriate for internet sharing. Do they have permission from that person to post their picture? Do they have their license plate or house number or phone number accidentally in a picture? Are they posting too much skin? Are they sharing family info? Keep tabs on this which will give boundaries for their online use!
The bottom line of this post about social media for kids is to be involved with your kids as they venture into social media and using apps on an electronic device.
It can be very scary for a parent to give their child something with so little control.
Especially when our kids can figure out devices and apps and games faster than we can.
They will find trouble if they want it.
But, if you parent ahead, stay involved, do your research and lead hands-0n, you have a better chance at teaching good online use early and steer them clear of the many dangers directed right at them through these devices.
What are some ways that you parent through apps and social media?
How do you handle social media for kids?