Living In a World of Likes and Followers: Teaching Kids to Avoid the Strain of Social Media

Social media can be a wonderful tool to keep in touch with friends and family as well as coworkers and professional relationships. However, it’s important for students to keep a healthy mindset when using social media. Here’s how to teach kids to avoid the strain of likes and followers!

Talk to kids about privacy. First and foremost, the first thing parents should do is discuss the importance of online safety with their kids. They should never share personal information online, and absolutely never agree to meet someone in person without an adult present. A large amount of social media strain comes from harassment – but if you are only “friends” with people you know, these issues are a lot easier to deal with. Strangers, anonymous individuals, and internet “trolls” are best avoided! Lastly, encourage your kids to tell an adult if they see something hateful, dangerous, or concerning (and always report these findings to the social media network).

Discuss the reality of social media. Social media is absolutely not an accurate depiction of someone’s life (or the real world in general). This concept may be easily understood by adults, but kids are not always aware of it. Explain to your kids that social media exposure only represents a small sliver of a person’s life – not surprisingly, people tend to only share their “best” moments! It’s easy to start believing someone else’s life must be so awesome because of their amazing content, so it’s important to remind your kids that a lot of what we see online is not a realistic depiction of that person’s life. Photos themselves are almost always edited with filters and other touchups, but kids and teens unfortunately do not always realize this fact (which has also become a growing problem with setting unrealistic physical expectations for one’s appearance). We dislike using this word, but it has to be said – a lot of what you see on social media is fake, so take everything with a grain of salt!

Talk about “likes” and “followers.” Sometimes they’re called “hearts”, “shares”, or “upvotes” – regardless of the term, likes and followers are a source of validation for many that use social media. And while it can be fun to see people’s reactions to your content, it’s also important not to focus on numbers. Also, keep in mind that there’s a huge problem with fake followers and likes out there, so the number you see on the screen may not actually represent real people. As parents, the best thing we can do is remind our kids that likes and followers are worthless in the grand scheme of things, and not to get hung up over online reactions. Of course, this can be easier said than done!

Encourage future thinking. One major problem that kids and teens don’t realize when using social media is this: once it’s online, it’s online forever. No, removing your post doesn’t make it disappear. No, that video app doesn’t delete your clip after 24 hours. Everything online is archived and backed up on servers and clouds these days, so you should never post anything online unless you are okay with it being permanent. This sounds extreme, but it’s a very good rule of thumb – remind your kids that they do not want to be in a position where they may lose a future job opportunity because of something irresponsible they posted on social media a decade prior. It’s just not worth it! This is an important aspect of social media use that all parents should really make sure their kids understand. When it comes to your online presence, be mindful of how you present yourself to the world – or you might regret it later!

To learn more about encouraging safe social media use, check out Tutor Doctor’s guide!