I consider myself a pretty social media savvy type of person.
I mean, technically, it is my job to be savvy in that area and, as a social media strategist, I do truly have a good handle on the best practices and how-tos of the major social platforms.
But, knowing how to grow a brand’s Facebook engagement doesn’t exactly mean a thing when it comes to letting your kids use social media and keeping them safe online.
What it does do, however, is make me understand how and why social media is such an important part of their lives.
When it comes to my kids and their usage, I work really hard to employ what I know about how social platforms work, mix it with what I know about kids work, and create a strategy that helps keep them safe without totally limiting their access.
Because I am not about that life.
Social media is a part of the future -honestly, if you’ve been paying attention for the past 10 years or so, it’s a part of the present!
It isn’t going anywhere and it will continue to be a viable and significant part of how humans in our world communicate going forward.
I don’t want my kids missing out on the ability to utilize it effectively and responsibly because I was too lazy to figure it out or too scared to let them.
I firmly believe young people need to be fluent in social platforms to have a successful career in the future as well as a full social life. I want them to learn under my guidance and, ust like I wouldn’t send my sons off to college without teaching them to drive or to make responsible choices when it comes to drinking or relationships, I’m not going to send them off without a good understanding of how to responsibly engage on social media platforms.
That doesn’t mean I’m not cautious about how my kids use social media still. Things happen in that space among youth that are scary and bad. The people and content they encounter can be hurtful. But, with proper knowledge and guidance, your kids can have a positive and completely appropriate social media experience.
Before you give them the green light and lift all of those restrictions (kidding, never lift all of the restrictions!), there are some things you need to do to prepare yourself, and them, for the experience.
13 Things To Do Before Letting Your Kids Use Social Media
Get Your Own Social Accounts
You can’t monitor something you’re completely baffled by. You need to understand how Snapchat works to be able to make good decisions about how your kids can use it. So sign up for an account, follow a couple of people. Post something to your story and share with your mom friends who are also on there trying to stay woke. You can learn together.
It’s kinda like the sex talk or the drinking talk. You don’t wait until your kids are in high school to open those discussions -you have them, in appropriate ways, throughout life so that when the time comes, they are willing and able to engage with you about these topics. How to be a good digital citizen and a responsible social media user becomes a topic for discussion well before your you have to worry about how your kids use social media. And, honestly, if you really take a look at the games and apps your kids are using, many of them are interacting with other users in the digital space well before they are ready for Snapchat. Those conversations and interactions need to be monitored and discussed as well. Kids need to know who to speak to online and who to avoid. They need to be reminded that your expectations for their online behavior is no different than what you expect from them in real life.
Make Sure Your Kids are of Age
All of the social platforms have age requirements in their terms of service. Know them.
Decide What the Rules Will Be
And be clear about the consequences of breaking them. Things like posting appropriate photos and not accepting friend requests from strangers are standard places to start. Decide what is important to you and your family and ensure your child sticks to those rules.
Discuss Expectations for Behavior and Usage with Your Kids
Don’t just assume they know how to behave online because they are good kids. Good kids make bad choices sometimes, and the lines seem blurry to people online, including adults. Anonymity makes people behave in ways they wouldn’t normally in public and it’s important that you remind your kids that anonymity is not a shield or an excuse for unkindness.
Give Them Limits
Kids don’t need to spend all day and night with their phones glued to their faces. We have bedtimes set on their device and they just shut down every night at the same time, no discussion.
Be a Good Social Media Role Model
If you’re getting in anger fueled Facebook fights with people about what happened at the neighborhood cookout, or using your pages for engaging in negative, drama-filled behaviors online, don’t be shocked if the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Just like you are watching how your kids use social media, your kids are most likely watching you. They may stumble over your comments when you leave your computer open, or hear about your latest rant from another parent while playing at a friend’s house. And, showing your kids your profile -what you do, what you watch, how you use the platform for education and entertainment is a great learning tool for them. Even if they never find out how you behave online, it’s hard to be a good guide when you are busy engaging in inappropriate behaviors yourself.
Share Your Feed with Your Kids
That doesn’t mean you should have a joint account with them -no that would be annoying to all parties. But you should allow them to see you using social media so they can understand how responsible adults engage in social media for pleasure and purpose. You want them to understand how it can be a benefit to life when used correctly.
Talk to Them About the Dangers
Keep it real with your kids about the things you are afraid of. You want them to be able to face the dangers and make appropriate choices and they won’t be able to do that if you don’t have a discussion with them about what those look like. Before you ever let your kids use social media, talk to them about online predators. Give them tips for dealing with bullying. Go over the kinds of things they should NEVER post or share. They also need to understand the long-term impact their social posts can have on them. While your Twitter feed seems pretty in the moment, the truth is kids have been passed over for scholarships and jobs based on their online personas. And, every young person can relate to the damage social posts can have on your day to day social life.
Turn Off Location
It makes it too easy for people looking to find out where your kids are. And, even if you allow them to turn it on while you’re with them at the Wizards game so they can post a fun photo of themselves with appropriate location tags, make sure it isn’t on at their home or school or other locations they frequent.
Set Up Parental Controls
There are plenty of options for limiting access to things you don’t think your kids are ready for. They aren’t fail proof and there are plenty of creative ways around them, but they do work well in many ways. Don’t rely on them to keep your kids totally safe, however. Educating yourself and interacting with your child’s device should be done as well.
Learn About Social Monitoring Tools
I’m not saying you should set any up, I’m just saying that you should know what’s out there so you can employ them as needed. Netnanny.com is a great place to start.
Set Up Their Accounts with Them
Go through the setup process with them. Help them choose a handle, help them choose a safe password and write it down so you have it (discuss with them the rules for changing it and sharing it with you), help them set up their privacy and mark their accounts as private. At least at first. As they get older, you may consider allowing them to alter this if they have a good reason (maybe your daughter has a killer make-up tutorial YouTube channel she wants to grow), but if they do, ensure you are prepared to monitor it even more closely. Talk to them about friend requests (who they can and can not accept requests from). Once they are all set up, let them post!
Just starting this journey and need help and support understanding how kids use social media and how you can keep them safe? Join my new group for Moms in the Middle on Facebook!