Updated: Jan 6
Nowadays, many children have their entire lives documented online, which can have far-reaching ramifications, both positive and negative. However, when educated about things like privacy, security and digital citizenship, they can enjoy social media and hopefully avoid its negative aspects. During COVID-19, especially, it is important for kids to know how to safely connect with their peers through social media.
As one of our 7th-grade students shared, "I love having the feeling of having all my friends in my back pocket." Help them keep themselves and these friends safe online!
Are you "Sharenting"?
Sometimes kids aren't the problem - well-meaning parents and/or guardians are! "Sharenting" refers to the overuse of parents or guardians sharing pictures of their children on social media. One study claims that children before five will have approximately 1,000 photos posted of them online. Understandably, parents want to share their happiness, but this can be dangerous. According to Vox, it is relatively easy for a picture on social media to get twisted. So, before explaining the social media rules to your children, ensure that you set a good example.
Here's the list of topics to have an open dialogue with your kids about before they create a social media account:
Children under the age of 13 are not developmentally capable of abstract or ethical thinking, and this includes being incapable of fully judging someone else's character. Thankfully, most social media platforms require users to be at least 13 to use their platforms. However, there are workarounds to such rules, like lying about one's age, and many children know how easy it is to do this.
When it comes to 'friending' others online, our rule of thumb is simple. If your child has not met the 'friend' in person, if the 'friend' is not of a similar age, or if they simply don't have any interest in being 'friends' with that person, then don't accept the friend request.
What not to share
It's imperative to tell children not to share personal details like their address, school name, or current location with anyone they don't know, and to never post this information online. Additionally, they should always avoid sharing photos of their location.
Help them keep this rule by hopping into the settings of the social sites they use and show them how to turn off location-tracking. It would be even better if you told them not to use apps that track locations or ask for too much personal information (ahem, TikTok, anyone?).
A reliable option for communication with children is Messenger Kids. It does not require a Facebook profile but will let you get in contact with your kids seamlessly. Nevertheless, the pros and cons of Messenger Kids should be researched by each family before a child gets access to it.