There are so many questions to address when it comes to your kids and what they do online, whether on their computer, phone, or tablet. The news is littered with stories of children and teenagers who are bullied on social media, and you no doubt want to protect your children in this digital age. Talking to your kids about social media safety is an important (ongoing) conversation, and you may need to start it sooner than you think. Even children in elementary school are online, so arming them with the tools they need to ensure their mental wellbeing is crucial.
The Internet Is Forever
Perhaps one of the most important privacy issues your children need to understand about social media is that what they think is private isn’t always. Digital permanence is the technical term for information that lives online forever. Once something is uploaded—even on a site such as Snapchat, which is designed to delete content after a certain time period—it can be copied, downloaded, or found again at a future date.
When your child is starting to get involved in online endeavors, whether on a social media platform or a blog, talk to them about social media safety. Tell them to check their privacy settings and make everything private to only them and those with whom they are connected. The easiest way to accomplish this is to Google “privacy settings” plus the platform of choice. These can be changed on the app or computer. Remember that many platforms default to making everything public, so this is an important first step.
After privacy settings are enabled, reiterate how important it is to monitor what is shared on social media. If your child wouldn’t want you to see what they post, they’re better off not posting it online.
Some people approach social media with a mindset of connecting with anyone who requests it. Others prefer to keep their online network limited. There’s no right or wrong way to approach this situation, but for social media safety, help your children understand that the people they’re connected to will be able to see everything they post. On some platforms, connections of connections can also see your posts.
Just as privacy settings help to limit an online audience, keeping connections to a minimum also limits who sees the information your children share. Remind your children that social media safety means only accepting connection requests from trusted family and friends, as well as reviewing connections regularly to ensure the right people are in their networks.
Avoid Sharing Anything Too Personal
While your children may think that it’s fine to share on social media the fact that they’ll be going out of town, that’s the kind of thing people look for. Even someone your kids consider to be a friend could take advantage of the fact that “my parents are gone” to suggest a party in their absence.
And it’s not just kids who forget not to share personal information online. Adults can get excited about vacation plans and let everyone know they’re heading out of town. Of course, that means their houses will be empty, which invites trouble.
Caution your children that, for their social media safety, they should avoid sharing personal information such as travel plans, address, phone number, or school location. Social media is built to tag locations, and we all tend to do it, so keep reminding them. And be a good role model by sharing with your children the things you’re posting and how you’re being aware of your own social media safety. That’s not to say they can’t share pictures of things that happened at school or on vacation; just don’t say which school or when they’re away from home.
Social Media Safety Is Important for Everyone
With initial and ongoing education about the importance of social media safety, parents can instill smart habits in their children. The internet is not going away, and it gets easier every day to share information online. But with practice and reminders, you and your children can share with the right people the things that are important to them and protect their privacy.
In addition to caring about your children’s wellbeing, Community Choice Pediatrics helps protect your children’s health. Our clinics are always accepting new patients. Learn more and schedule your appointment here.