Social Media Guide for Parents: How to Encourage Safe Use

In today’s world, kids are constantly surrounded by social media. With electronic devices now common among students, more children are using the web to interact with friends and keep up to date with the newest trends. As parents, it’s important to encourage our kids to exercise good judgment when using the net. Here are some important topics to talk about with your kids when discussing social media:

1. Privacy is important. In the old days of the internet, experts used to warn against ever giving out personal information online. Today, the scene is much different! From social media influencers to v-loggers, it’s not uncommon to see content creators using their real names on their profiles. For most people (and especially kids), we recommend not doing this. With non-professional/academic applications, usernames and handles are generally a safer option! Fortunately, every major social media platform gives you full control over your privacy settings. For minors, it’s best to keep your profiles private and only accept friend requests from people you know.

2. Think carefully about what you share. People of all ages tend to forget that for all intents and purposes, the internet is permanent. Everything you share over the years is added to your “digital footprint”, so to speak. In today’s day and age, it’s not uncommon for employers and professionals to run a web search on potential hires. Explain to your kids – 10 years from now, the last thing you want is an embarrassing photo you shared in high school to come back and haunt you (or worse, cost you a great job)! Remind your kids to be mindful of what they share online. Keep the mindset that nothing is truly private online – if it’s not something you’d want your future boss to see, it’s probably best to think twice before sharing.

3. Don’t interact with strangers. This is a simple golden rule – if someone you don’t recognize reaches out to you, don’t engage. If they start asking for personal information, block them. Never open files from an unknown source. For kids, there really shouldn’t be anyone they don’t know trying to add them on social media anyway. In other words, use common sense. If something feels “off,” it probably is – better to err on the side of caution!

4. Report inappropriate behavior. If at any point someone is making you feel uncomfortable, report them to the social network immediately. Harassment and online bullying is a serious offense and should never be taken lightly. Encourage your kids not to engage in online harassment, and to tell an adult if they see any language or content that is potentially dangerous or harmful.

5. Keep a grounded perspective. Remind your kids that social media is not an accurate depiction of real life. People tend to share the best parts of their lives on social media – a slim window into the most exciting moments. In reality, these are often small, selective pieces of a greater whole. It’s easy to get swept up in today’s digital world of selfies and snap filters! It’s healthy to keep a broad perspective when it comes to social media – what we see is not necessarily true to life, so take it all with a grain of salt!