Lately I’ve had a few parents ask me for tips on helping their kids navigate the world of social media. I’ve talked with a few of the NVC teens about this as well to get their thoughts and here are a few tips/reminders that I’d like to share.
The question I get asked most often is, “When is my kid old enough to be allowed on social media?” My usual answer is every family needs to make that call on on their own, based on the individual child. Much like rated R movies, dating, driving, and curfew, how ready a kid is to navigate social media ultimately comes down to the parents belief in their maturity, and their willingness to walk alongside their kid as their world expands. The keys are an open and honest talk beforehand, clear expectations and guidelines, and a willingness for kids and parents to revisit the issue on a frequent basis.
There are a three areas I recommend talking about before allowing your child on social media:
- Parents should register social media accounts to a shared (or parent) email so notifications of changes in security are sent immediately.
- Parents should have password access to the account for an agreed upon time. My recommendation would be until High School. Obviously, that timeframe should be based upon trust that has accrued.
- Especially when it comes to younger kids, parents should be on every social media platform that their kids are, and connected to their account.
- All social media accounts should be set to private, meaning anyone that views the posts or profile have to request permission beforehand.
- All friends requests/followers/subscribers should be approved by parents for an agreed upon amount of time.
- Turn off all location settings for posts until an agreed upon time. Almost every social media app has a setting allowing your location to be displayed. A quick internet search can help you turn that off.
- Report all bullying immediately to the social media outlet.
- For the first several weeks/months kids should get verbal approval from parents before posting anything to social media. This allows kids and parents to establish a mutual understanding of what the family does/does not want public. It also allows parents to speak to the kids about potential dangers of social media in a non-threatening way.
A few other ideas to consider:
Social media is well past mainstream acceptance, and is a viable means of communication, but like any other means of communication there are social cues to be learned. Talk with your kids about what they see on their feed, and how they feel, or want to respond.
One of the dangers of social media is the temptation to use it as a means of self-worth. Unless you are getting paid for posting (a growing, viable demographic we’ll talk about at another time) how many likes, followers, reposts etc… does not determine your self worth.
Like I mentioned before, social media is an increasingly valid form of communication. Encourage your kids to think about what they want to communicate. Do they want to share extraordinary events? Daily life? Encouragement? Connecting with others? Creating an intentional plan for how to use social media encourages your kids to use social media to be a blessing to others. For example, instead of posting selfies, maybe there is a friend they can build up instead.
Respond to what your kids post in person. If your kid posts a great picture of the sunset, let them know you enjoy their photography, or the way they see the world. If they post a picture of their group of friends, compliment them on their decision making, and ask how one of the friends is doing. If you’re struggling with a conversation topic, your kids social media account may provide a great lightning rod for conversation, and insight into their personality.
I’d love to hear your tips and advice for helping kids navigate social media as well. Feel free to share in the comments below.
One love, One heart.