Why you need to talk to your kids about Social Media Safety

When it comes to safety online, kids see things differently than adults. Having grown up with the Internet, many kids feel perfectly comfortable sharing personal information online, whereas many adults cringe at the notion. Parents see Internet restrictions as a rational way to keep safe, but kids see them as rules to keep them from having fun. Basically, kids take the security of the Internet for granted, opting to enjoy themselves now, rather than to protect themselves from future risks.

Dos and Don'ts for Discussing Social Media Safety
  • DO foster a culture of conversation in your family from the beginning.
  • DON'T make social media a forbidden fruit.
  • DO keep the conversation age-appropriate.
  • DO make your teen the expert.
  • DON'T belittle your teen's interest in social media.
  • DO talk about your own social media use, if applicable.
  • DO be transparent about monitoring.
  • DO remind your kids that the Internet is not private.

Don't make things forbidden. “When you tell a young child 'Don't touch the stove,' what's the first thing they want to do? Touch the stove,". “So try a different approach: 'Hey, let's learn how to cook today.' In other words, show your kids how to use social media in fun and safe ways."

Don't give too much information. “Keeping it simple, not scary, is the key,". “We don't tell our very young children to wear their seat belts because they might fly through the windshield. We tell them it's safe, it's the rules, it's the way it is. And kids trust that!"

Make your teen the expert. “Parents' biggest issue right now is their fear that they can't keep up; they think they need to be experts,". “Instead, ask your teen to teach you how to use different social media platforms. When kids feel like they're the experts, they let down a lot of their barriers."This works especially well for potentially awkward issues like sexting. “Put the conversation in their court,". “Try saying something like 'Fill me in on sexting. Is it common? Is it exaggerated in statistics & the media?'"

Don't belittle your teen's interest. Even if the thought of Instagram leaves you cold and you think tweeting is for the birds, don't say so. 
“The more open and accepting we are of technology as adults, the less it is used in isolation or secretly, and the more control and understanding and ultimately success we can all have with it."

Talk about your own social media use. If you use platforms like Facebook or Twitter yourself, either for work or personally, share a little bit of that online life with your kids. This helps to facilitate a two-way conversation about online habits.

Be transparent about monitoring. It's a good idea to create a strategy to monitor your kids' social media use. That could include making sure they add you to their contact or “friends" lists and checking text and chat logs periodically. But don't keep the monitoring secret: Let your kids know that you're doing so and when.
Remind your kids that the Internet is not private. Information or photos shared on even the most locked-down social media profile is at risk of being exposed at some point. Discuss the concept of good judgment—tailoring the conversation to your children's ages—and discourage them from social media to bully or gossip about others. “Think twice, post once" is always a good policy.

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