Kids and Social Media: Three Tips for Parents

Two boys sit on a step and look at their smartphones.

Parents can teach their children important skills that will help keep them safe when using social media.Social media has opened up new and creative ways for people to share information, and many young people are drawn to this kind of technology. While young children may not be using these platforms quite yet, many become familiar with social media and how it works well before they create their first account. They often learn about it from the environment around them, whether they hear someone talk about "likes" on television or they observe their siblings or parents using these platforms. Regardless of whether they use it themselves or not, parents should be aware of the perks and the risks involved when their kids and teens are using social media. Moreover, parents should encourage responsible use of social media and teach their kids skills that will help them enjoy these apps safely.

Here are three things that parents can do to help their kids safely enjoy social media.

Understand Privacy Settings

Different social media apps have different privacy policies and settings. Many social media apps keep their default privacy setting rather low, requiring the user to adjust their settings to the level of privacy they desire. As a parent, it will be useful to know that these settings exist and familiarize yourself with how they work on various social media platforms. Talk to your kids and teens about using privacy settings on social media, and encourage them to keep those settings to where their page and posts are only shared with a limited group of individuals including friends and family. Besides helping your kids and teens to maintain some level of privacy online, keeping their pages mostly private will help to avoid them being followed online by strangers.

Discuss Posts and Followers

Making smart choices about what to and what not to share on social media is so important. Talk with your kids about what is appropriate to post and who will be able to see it. Remind them that before publishing something, they should consider whether the post will be harmful to them self or anyone else. Make sure your kids know never to post personal information like their home addresses, bank account numbers, social security number, and more. Discuss what kinds of photos are okay to share and what should be kept offline. This not only includes pictures of themselves but also of other people. Some individuals may not want images of themselves posted online, so encourage your kids and teens to ask their friends if it's okay to post photos of them before doing so. Also, talk about social media followers. Urge them only to accept friend requests from known individuals. Encourage your kids not to respond to messages from strangers and to tell you if they are receiving messages from people they don't know. You can help your kids report this to the social media platform and stop the harassing behaviour. 

Friend Your Kids Online

Children and teens won't always want to share parts of their personal life with their parents, yet their social media pages can often provide a glance into it. Create your own profiles on the various social media outlets that your kids use, and send friend requests to them or follow each of their pages. Following or friending your child's social media pages will give you a more in-depth look as to what they're posting online. Try not to constantly check their pages or read into posts too much, particularly if everything looks to be healthy and safe. If you do notice concerning behaviour at home and on their social media pages, talk to them about it. Also, cyberbullying is a relevant concern when using social media apps. Speak to your kids about the effects of cyberbullying, and encourage them to report it if they are experiencing it. This article has some additional tips and information about online safety basics and cyberbullying.

Social media safety skills are important for any person using these apps to learn, especially kids and teens. These three tips can help your children use social media safely, but it's may also be useful to encourage them not to get too devoted to these apps. Advise them to limit their usage of these apps and maybe even take periodic breaks from using them altogether. Be a role model for your kids by doing the same yourself. When your children are with you, schedule offline times during which you all can enjoy each other's company without technology. Being safe on social media is one thing, but also knowing how to use it in moderation can be just as important.