These days, many parents have bought cell phones for their children as young as six or seven. And with drivers licenses available at sweet sixteen, many feel it’s in our best interest to make sure kids have an emergency means of calling home.
Obviously, today’s smart phone functionality goes well beyond phone calls. Many children even ignore inbound calls, opting to reply to the caller via text.
Texting is hardly the half of it. From games to social media, smart phones and tablets are the hallmark of today’s hyper-connectivity. For our children, inbound notification alerts are like the Pavlovian call to dinner—they will drop a conversation entirely if there’s a pending comment on social media.
Is the phone the problem, or is it the social networks?
The time your child spends on a phone or tablet is one thing. But his or her presence on social media is another, and parents are unavoidably worried about personal information and how it relates to privacy. Smart phones are the turnkeys for an online presence that can be more far-reaching than every physical network—school, family, etc.—put together.
The information about your child(ren) on the internet can be alarming, particularly when you see the absence of deliberation on their part about what they should or shouldn’t post.
Parents are concerned about their children’s social media presence, and rightly so. Safety is a very real concern, and the news gives us reminders of that every day. As children get older, long-term impacts of personal information online may be too abstract for them to take seriously—but it is not only “stranger danger” safety that they need to take into account.
As a parent with children on social media, the only thing you want is to protect them and see them be successful. So, what are some of the parenting traps that you can avoid when monitoring your child(ren)’s online behavior?
Don’t: • Be the helicopter parent. • Spy on your child(ren) online. • Make social media a forbidden fruit. • Explain your rules with absolutes. Explain the “why,” making the effort to educate your child(ren) about social media choices and consequences.
Do: • Walk your kids through Googling themselves, and educate them on the different uses of personal information online. • Be transparent about monitoring (if you choose to monitor their accounts), and be sure to include the “why” and “what” you’re monitoring for. • Think realistically about house rules for phones, tablets and internet access. • Think about opening your own account on the networks your children use most, even if you don’t add or follow them.
Support a culture of open conversation, and remember that your child(ren) may know a lot more about social networks than you do. Allow them to educate you a little, even going so far as to ask them what they think about certain activity online in order to take the conversation further.
Children’s smart use of social media is a product of open and honest parenting. Be sure to contact us for more insights and resources at firstname.lastname@example.org.